{ LET’S take control of your supermarket shopping by becoming food label savvy. }


Contributor: Jade Gibbons

Words by: Jade Gibbons, Accredited Practising Dietitian, Nutriscope Solutions

Do you find yourself doing your best to eat well however when shopping at the supermarket, being confused by the information on food labels? There is a lot of nutrition related information on food labels, and it is easy to be overwhelmed, or perhaps uncertain what something really means.

I’d love to help you take control of your supermarket shopping by becoming food label savvy.

In this article, I’ve highlighted some of the key sections of food labels (with a nutritional focus), what they mean, and some tips to help you get the most from the information! Let’s get started. First up…

Nutrition Information Panel

The Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) is the table which shows the amounts of certain nutrients including energy, protein, fat (total and saturated), carbohydrate (total and sugars) and sodium. The amount shown for each of the nutrients is listed in columns, labelled ‘Per Serve’ and ‘Per 100 g’ (or ml, for a liquid food).

Tip #1: How to determine the nutritional content
If you would like to know the nutritional content (and the serving size stated on the pack represents the amount you would eat on a given occasion) it is useful to look at the ‘Per Serve’ column. If the serving size stated on the pack does not reflect the amount you would eat on a given occasion, it may be more useful to look at the ‘Per 100 g’ column, or adjust the nutrient amounts according to the actual serving amount you would eat.

Tip #2: Compare the nutritional content of products
To help in your selection of products, it can be useful to compare the nutritional content of similar products (for example, comparing the sugar content of two different yoghurts). To directly compare the nutritional composition of products, you can compare the nutrient amounts shown in the ‘Per 100 g’ column in each of the NIPs.

Ingredient List

The ingredient list is typically found below the NIP and shows the ingredients in the product (including additives).

The ingredient list is ordered in terms of ingoing weight, meaning the earlier/higher an ingredient is listed, the greater weight amount of that ingredient went into the product during manufacture.

Tip #3: Read and visualise the ingredients
As the ingredient list shows the ingredients in terms of ingoing weight, this can be helpful as it provides an indication of the proportions of ingredients. Sometimes the percentage of an ingredient is indicated however this is only required under certain circumstances.

Tip #4: Use the ingredient list and NIP together
For example, if you are trying to reduce the amount of added sugar you consume, you can look for ‘sugar’ (or other names for sugar) in the ingredient list. If it is listed early in the list, then it means that a greater amount of added sugar is in the product compared the ingredients listed after ‘sugar’. However, this is only a guide as the actual amount of each ingredient typically is not indicated. As such, using the ingredient list in conjunction with the nutrient amounts shown in the NIP can be useful.


Examples of claims of a nutritional nature include gluten free, no added sugar, source of protein. For a product to state that it is ‘gluten free’, it must not contain any detectable gluten, where the current level of gluten detection in Australia is 3-5 ppm, that is 0.003 g to 0.005 g of gluten per 1 kg of product.

Tip #5: Be claim savvy
It is important to not only look at what claims are made but also consider what claims aren’t being made. This is as claims typically highlight positive attributes, opposed to less desirable attributes. For example, a product may state that it is a ‘source of protein’ (or another claim) but may contain an undesirable level of sugar (or other nutrient of interest).


Allergen declarations for certain allergens are mandatory in Australia, and are typically located below the ingredient list. For example, it is mandatory to state if the product contains gluten-containing cereals, whereby gluten-containing cereals include wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt and hybrid strains of these cereals.

Tip #6: Allergen awareness
Remember to check if there is a ‘May contain/May be present’ statement in addition to the ‘Contains’ statement and assess accordingly in line with your needs. For information regarding the allergen sources, it is useful to look at the ingredient list as sometimes the ingredients containing the allergens are bolded (however not always the case).


Many foods don’t require food labels (for example, fresh fruit and vegetables) and therefore the above information isn’t always applicable. Most foods however do have food labels, and therefore it can be handy to keep in mind the above sections and tips.

Finally, last but not least…

Tip #7: Keep at it
Reading and understanding food labels may take a little longer at first, however be sure to keep at as it will become increasingly familiar. Most importantly, you will have learned a valuable skill that will enable you to confidently select foods to support the nutritional needs of you and your family.


Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only. It is not intended as advice and should not be relied upon as such. Independent advice suited to individual circumstances should be sought from relevant industry professionals prior to making any decisions.

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Categories: HEALTH.