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Labelling It

There is so much confusion with food labels, and I’m not just talking about the Nutrition Facts; the confusion also includes the Ingredient Listing so in this week’s blog, I hope I can make it a little easier to decide what is best. I also finish with a little look at Australian grown and made and how we can choose to suppport local growers and manufacturers by looking for a logo and/or at the barcode.

Let’s start with the Nutritional Facts

First things first, I will be jabbering on about calories a little bit but in all honesty I personally do not count calories. I never have because I know what I eat and if it is a good choice, or one that could be a bit better. However, some people when it comes to fat loss, rely on measuring their weight of food and the calories that food contains. I respect that so let’s talk about calories….or “energy” which is what food labels use as a measurement. I may get a bit technical now but bear with me. This is not so you spend twice as long shopping and doing your calculations when looking at the labels, it’s merely a guide so you can stop, look, think then choose your product.

When looking at the Nutritional Facts label, it is best to read the amount per 100g (or 100ml). Reason being is that the serving size is determined by the manufacturer and/or producer therefore it will vary from one product to another and affects the percentages (%) shown for ingredients.

The panel provides the key information on the amount of macronutrients:

Energy (kilojoules {kJ} or calories – see below for the value of each per gram)


Total Fat and saturated fat. Some even list monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans

Total Carbohydrate and sugars

Sodium (salt)

Some even list extra information like omega 3, iron, calcium, potassium, fibre

Now let’s dissect the Nutrition Facts label on the right, working with the “Per 100g” column and the weight/grams macronutrients.

Protein = 2.8g

Total Fat = 4.9g

Carbohydrate = 12.4g

Whilst it is crucial to know the grams so you can tally up each macronutrient over the day, relying purely on the number of grams to indicate the energy value (kJ or calories) is misleading.

In the example label here, if we look only at the number of grams, it is easy to think that is food is about 12.4% carbohydrate (sugar). This is misleading because we need to work out the energy value that this percentage represents.

Here comes the technical part!

1 gram of Protein yields 17 kJ or 4 calories

1 gram of Fat yields 37kJ or 9 calories

1 gram of Carbohydrate yields 16 kJ or 4 calories

So we now multiply the grams by the energy value:

Protein = 2.8g x 17kJ = 48kJ or 12 calories

Total Fat = 4.9g x 37kJ = 181kJ or 20 calories

Carbohydrate = 12.4g x 16kJ = 198kJ or 50 calories

Therefore Total Energy value = 427kJ or 82 calories

So now we can work out the percentage of each macronutrient:

Protein = 48kJ divided by 427kJ = 12%

Total Fat = 181kJ divided by 427kJ = 42%

Carbohydrate = 198kJ divided by 427kJ = 46%

With 12.4g of carbohydrate in 100g of this food, it is not surprising that this is high in sugar. In fact it represent close to half the energy value!

Now onto that little (or big!) list of Ingredients

The information provided on ingredients is listed by weight, from greatest to the smallest, and on the presence of preservatives and food additives. These are represented by numbers as some of the additive names can be long and may even include letters from the Greek alphabet!

A handy tool I use is a card in my purse that outlines a list of Additives to Avoid. Every time I ordered my cocao wafers from Changing Habits to make my delicious homemade chocolates, they include a nifty little card listing the colours, preservatives, antioxidants and flavour enhancers to avoid. It’s quick and easy to whip out, check down the list and make the decision to go with it or go without it.

As I said, this mathematical calculation and list of “ADDITIVES TO AVOID" is not to confuse you or add an extra hour on the shopping. It’s a take home tool to know your protein, fat and carbohydrate guidelines and for you to keep an eye on the grams. A quick guideline summary and more information from our National Health and Medical Research Council can be found here It tells you the maximum number of grams to look out for to keep you healthy. The Australian Foods Standard is also a great resource.

I also like to buy Australian where I can – packaged or fresh. The Australian Government did a survey with the population to decide what logo would be clear and attract attention when looking at products and where they came from. In Australia, we have products that are Australian grown and made, however we also have products that are grown here but not made here. This is where the consumer have been deceived in the past when we saw the green and gold triangle logo which “Australian Made” on it.

If there is no logo, have a look at the bar code. Why?

There are no food inspection regulations of foods grown or processed in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong or Thailand. The first 2-3 digits of a barcode is the country code where the product was made. Example: all barcodes that start with 690; 691 through to 699 are all made in China, 471 is made in Taiwan – 2 of a handful of Asian countries that do not have any food inspection regulations. Vietnam, Hong Kong and Thailand are also in this category of countries. When you are shopping next time, take a peek at the bar code – it’s not just for pricing. Remember, the Australian barcode prefix is 93.

00 ~ 13 USA and CANADA 30 ~ 37 FRANCE 40 ~ 44 GERMANY 49 JAPAN


Next time you drop into the shops, take a little extra time to check out a few products you pick up and see where they come from. After all, it is our health and body that we need to 'feed' so we should take time to look at where that food comes from.

Stay Active in the Season you are in.

Tara xx

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