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How to read food labels

How to read food labels

Let's be honest: the nutritional information contained on packaged foods is confusing!

It’s something that we can only just barely get our heads around, and we’re in the fitness industry! We can only imagine how confusing it is for all of you BBB babes!

Many food businesses are intentionally sneaky with how they present the nutritional information. It’s so important that you know how to read the labels properly so that you can see what the food companies are trying to hide!

So, how do you figure it out?

Firstly, let’s look at a nutritional label and what the different areas mean:


  1. Tells you how many servings there are in a packet.
  1. Tells you the nutritional information per serving. So if you ate this particular product, as it is 1 serve per packet, you would consume 85 calories and 7.3 grams of protein.
  1. Tells you the nutritional information per 100 grams. And this is our FAVOURITE section, because this is where companies can’t hide… as it shows you the percentage breakdown of the food.

For example, for every 100 grams of this product:

  • there are 25 grams of carbohydrates, which makes it 25% carbs
  • there are 26.1 grams of protein, so it is 26.1% protein
  • there are 8.9 grams of sugars, so it is 8.9% sugar
  • there are 8.4 grams of fat, so it is 8.4% fat.

Now you can see why they can’t hide here! This is the FIRST section that you should be looking at.

  1. This section shows how sneaky companies can be, as they highlight what they want to draw your attention to – in this case the protein content. BUT, the protein content is only slightly higher than the carbohydrate content. It’s misleading as it makes you think this is a high protein product, when in fact it is high protein and high carbohydrate - as shown in 5.

‘Sugar’ in the nutritional label can be a little misleading as fruit counts as sugar. But you can tell straight away if a product is high in processed sugar by checking the ingredients label.

In Australia, companies have to list ingredients in the order of the greatest quantities. So the first thing you see first is the greatest ingredient, the second thing listed is the second greatest ingredient etc.

This is the SECOND section that you should look at. Why? Because these days, sugar is often the second or third listed ingredient! You should bypass these products and pick up a healthier alternative.

Here’s the label for a ‘Strawberry Yoghurt’ pouch:


You can tell by the order of the ingredients that sugar is the second greatest ingredient and that there is more sugar than strawberries! In strawberry yoghurt!? Pffft, it should be renamed ‘Sugar Yoghurt’!

Here’s another example of a tricky label (it’s from a commonly perceived ‘healthy’ cereal):


The ‘% DI’ (or percentage of recommended daily intake) makes this look like it’s good for you. IT ISN’T!

And here’s why:

  • the recommended daily intake of sugar for women is 25 – 38 grams, not almost 100 grams which is what this label suggests
  • One 40 gram serve of this cereal equates to 26% - 40% of your daily recommended intake of sugar!
  • BUT a 40 gram serving size is so small; the average girl will have at least two 40 gram servings, which means they will consume 52% - 80% of their recommended intake of sugar in one serving of cereal!

We know that all this might still be confusing. But the more notice you take of your labels, and the more you think critically about what you're eating, the easier it will become to ensure you're eating correctly for your health and fitness goals!

Want to know more answers to your nutrition questions? We answer them all in our EAT Nutrition Guide!