What to look for when you go shopping
If you want to keep healthy or are trying to lose/maintain weight, watching what you eat is very important. When you look at a food label, you should look at:
The Food Standards Agency suggest that if you want to eat a healthy diet, one of the key things you should be doing is trying to cut down on fat (especially saturated fat), salt and added sugars.
Many retailers and manufacturers now provide traffic light labels which show you ‘at a glance’ if the food you are thinking about buying has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt, helping you get a better balance.
The labels show you whether a food has a high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) amount of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt in 100g of the food.
Red should be eaten occasionally, amber is fine to eat most of the time and green is the healthiest choice.
Many of the foods with traffic light colours will have a mixture of red, amber and greens. So, when you're choosing between similar products, try to go for more greens and ambers, and fewer reds, if you want to make the healthier choice. You need remember however, it's all about getting the overall balance of our diet right.
In addition to traffic light colours you will also see the number of grams of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt in what the manufacturer or retailer suggests as a 'serving' of the food. This is so if two labels have similar colours you can compare these figures, and choose the one that is lower to make a healthier choice. Not all manufacturers use traffic lights but will use labels with % Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs).
What are Guideline Daily Amounts?
Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) help consumers make sense of the nutrition information provided on food labels. They are guidelines for healthy adults and children about the approximate amount of Calories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, total sugars, protein, fibre, salt and sodium required for a healthy diet.
Because people vary in many ways, such as size and activity levels, GDAs cannot be used as targets for individuals. For example someone who is very active will need more calories than someone who is not. Someone who is trying to lose weight probably needs only 1,500kcals (female) or 1,800kcals a day (male).
The daily guideline amounts GDA’s for adults are:
To Apply Traffic lights to a product without the label, look at the per 100g information
on the pack and use the grid below to make a healthier choice:
How do traffic light colours fit into a healthy diet?
If you want to choose a healthy diet, you should:
Traffic light colours can help you get the balance right by helping you to choose between products and keep a check on the amount of foods high in fat, sugars and salt that you are eating.
Eating too much fat has been linked with a greater risk of coronary heart disease. Also, the more fat you eat, the more likely you are to put on weight.
Eating too many sugary foods doesn’t help if you are watching your weight, especially if they are also high
in fat such as chocolate, puddings and cakes. Sugar is also very bad for teeth and can cause decay.
On a food label, salt is often sodium, 1g = roughly 2.5g of salt. It’s the sodium that can lead to health problems. Adults should not have more than 6g, that’s only a teaspoonful a day.