Ask the Experts: Megan Whelan on nutrition labels

Ask the Experts: Megan Whelan on nutrition labels

Tuesday, November 13, 2018
/ By:
Megan Whelan

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What nutritional information should I pay attention to when reading a nutrition label?

Checking the nutrition label is a great way to compare food products and make healthier, more informed choices. Nutrients of interest may be different for every person depending on their health priorities but the main nutrients of significance to align with healthy eating guidelines are fairly consistent world-wide. When checking the nutrition information on food labels it is useful to:

  1. Have an awareness of energy intake (kcal or kJ) to help be mindful of overall energy balance
  2. Focus on including fibre and good fats in your eating patterns to meet recommendations
  3. Try to choose foods with high levels of saturated fats, added sugar and salt less often and in smaller amounts.

A helpful tool often listed on the nutrition label is the serving size. The suggested serving size does not always add up to the amount of food contained in the packaging so it is a good idea to check this information as an indicator of portion size. Additionally, often a reference intake (amount of each nutrient contained in the food product as a proportion of the estimated requirement for a generally healthy adult) is listed and can help inform a rough target for each nutrient. Our individual requirements will differ based on a number of characteristics such as age, gender, body composition and activity level, but the reference intake can be useful as a general approximation. Instead of focusing all the attention on what to cut out of your meals, you might find it helpful to use the nutrition information to focus your attention on adding in more of the good things!


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Dr. Megan Whelan is a Registered Dietitian with a PhD in the area of public health from the Faculty of Medicine at The University of Queensland, Australia. Megan has a broad range of nutrition experience having worked as a clinical dietitian specializing in weight management, among various other areas.