Reading food labels
A guide to better choices
How to make better choices when buying store bought packaged foods.
Look for the stars
- The Health Star Rating is a quick and easy way to compare similar packaged foods, for example breakfast cereals.
- The Health Star Rating system is not intended for fresh unpackaged foods like fruit and vegetables. These foods are recommended to be a main part of family eating.
- The more stars, the healthier the choice.
The Health Star Rating system is an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory governments in partnership with industry, public health and consumer groups. It is a voluntary program. To find out more please visit The Health Star Rating website.
Check the date
- 'Use-by' – food should not be eaten after this date as it may not be safe.
- 'Best-before' – food can be eaten after this date but the quality may not be as good.
The Nutrition Information Panel (NIP)
- Most packaged foods will have a NIP.
- Use the panel to compare similar packaged foods and drinks.
- The panel may have more nutrients listed if the packaged food is making a 'nutrition content claim' for example, "a good source of calcium".
|Per serving||This is the suggested serve size. It may not be how much you eat.|
|Per 100g||Use the column to compare packaged foods.|
|Total fat||This is the total of all fat including saturated fat. Generally choose packaged foods with less than 10g per 100g.|
|Saturated fat||Aim for the lowest per 100g. Less than 3g per 100g is best.|
|Sugar||Aim for the lowest per 100g. If the sugar content per 100g is more than 15g and sugar (or alternate name) is listed high on the ingredient list this may not be the best choice. Sugars are found naturally in ingredients like fruit and milk.|
|Dietary fibre||Choose breads and cereals with 3g or more fibre per serving.|
|Sodium||Packaged foods with less than 400mg per 100g are good, and less than 120mg per 100g are better.|
|Ingredients||Ingredients are listed from most to the least. Use this to check the first three ingredients for items high in saturated fat, salt or sugar.|
The ingredient list
The ingredient list can tell you why a packaged food is high in sugar, salt or fat. Ingredients are listed from most to least in quantity.
If you are watching how much fat, sugar or salt you eat, look for the other names of these ingredients.