Do you know how to read your food labels? Companies come up with extremely clever ways to hide sugar in products. Given that there’s over 60+ names for sugar, it’s not difficult to do.

I did a workshop on food labels this week and I want to highlight some of the things I’ve found. If you know me, you will know that I regularly browse around the shops scouting for crazy marketing practices from the food industry. They are fairly easy to find if you know what to look for.

Let’s look at some of the main things that I highlighted during the workshop. 

How To Read Food Labels

The Ingredient List and the Nutrition Facts

The ingredient list and the nutrition facts are not the same information. The left image is an example of an ingredients list on a food label. And the image on the right is an example of the nutritional facts of a product.

how to read food labels
How To Read Food Labels

Ingredients list

This is the list you want to pay the most attention to on a food label.

Ingredients are always listed in the order of descending weight. In other words, in the above example, the cake wheat flour constitutes the majority of the product, and sugar is 2nd, and so forth.

If you’re looking for a project low in sugar, sugar (or any other word/form of sugar) should not be listed under the top 5 ingredients on the list.

Nutritional Analysis

We have certain laws that govern our nutritional information on food labels. Nutritional information should always be available per 100g, per serving and it must also indicate what the service size is. Always compare foods by looking at what’s listed in the “per 100g” column.

“Low Carb” means that the carbs are less than 5 grams per 100 grams.

“High in Protein” means that there are more than 10 grams per 100 grams of protein. Many companies add labels like “high in protein” on wrappers because the protein per 100 grams is more than 10 grams, whereas the actual mass of the product is only 25 grams. This gives you 3.3 grams of protein for the product, which doesn’t qualify as “high protein”. So be on the lookout for this.

“Sugar-Free” means the product has less than 0.5 grams of sugar per 100g. It, therefore, doesn’t mean that the product is completely sugar-free. You still have to check on the ingredients list whether any sugar was added.

“No Added Sugar” doesn’t mean it’s sugar-free or low in sugar. It just means that no extra sugar has been added.

“Reduced” doesn’t necessarily means “low”.  All it means is that two similar products were compared and product A is lower in a nutrient than product B and the difference is =>25%.

HERE’S A FEW EXAMPLES WE DISCUSSED DURING THE WORKSHOP

BUTTER

The only ingredients that butter should contain is cream (cow’s milk), salt and cultures.

How to Read Food Labels

MUESLI

People are often under the incorrect impression that muesli is a health food. However, muesli is loaded with sugar. In the below example, we have sugar listed as the 4th ingredient on the list. Sugar is also listed again under Quava Fruit Flakes.

Sugar in Muesli

GUMMY VITES KIDS MULTI VITAMIN

Gummy Vites has been a long time favorite of many moms. It tastes like sweets, so it must be a great way to get all the vitamins in.  Your child is better off without any of these types of products. If you look closer at the ingredient list, you will notice that the product consists of pure sugar. 

Gummy Vites Sugar

DICED TOMATOES

Diced Tomatoes can have different ingredients in them. You always want to look for the least amount of ingredients in it’s purest form, e.g. 100% Tomatoes. In this example, the diced tomatoes only consists of 56% tomatoes. The rest is tomato juice.  Of course we don’t know what the tomato juice consists of, but here’s a list of the ingredients in a well-known brand. Sugar is 3rd on the list.

Sugar in Diced Tomato

NESTUM BABY CEREAL

Probably the most surprising of them all – baby food. I had no idea there was so much sugar hiding in baby food. This product is for babies 7 months and up. It contains 4 grams of sugar as well as 3.3 grams of sucrose. That’s a whopping 7.3 grams of sugar per serving.  That’s more than 2 teaspoons of sugar per serving.  Sugar is listed twice on the ingredient list as Brown Sugar and Honey

Baby Cereal and sugar

INFACARE BABY CEREAL

This is a baby cereal for infants 0 – 6 months. The first ingredient on the list is corn syrup solids. That’s exactly it. Corn syrup. The corn syrup is dehydrated to form solids. The 2nd ingredient is vegetable oil. You want to stay away from any processed hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Sugar in baby cereal

Sugar hides in almost everything. If it says “sugar-free”, it’s too good to be true and you need to check the label. Educate yourself. It’s our responsibility to always be one step ahead of the big food companies.

If you have questions, feel free to hop onto my Facebook page. I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you might have around certain foods and food labels.

Talk to you soon,

Petrolene