Understanding food labels

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A quick guide to understanding food labels

At first glance you would be forgiven for thinking that some food labels are written if a foreign language, Energy per serving, fat per 100g, sodium as a %age of RDA. What do they all mean?


Energy is measured in calories (kcal) and is shown on the label as kcal per 100g of the product. It may also be shown as kcal per pack or kcal per serving.

Simply speaking, eating more calories than you "need" leads to weight gain. Women need approximately 2000 calories per day and men need 2500.


Fat is usually shown as fat per 100g of the product and as with energy (and most other categories on the page) it may also be shown per serving and/or per pack.
Food with 20g of fat per 100g of the product could generally be considered to be high in fat, whilst anything below 3g of fat per 100f is considered to be low in fat.

The guidlines for fat intake state that men should have no more than 90g of fat per day, and women 70g

Saturated Fat

Saturate fat may also be shown on labels in addition to fat (see above). Saturated fat is known to raise levels of bad cholestorol in the blood and you should attempt to cut back on saturated fat.

3g of saturated fat per 100g of the product is high, 1g per 100g is good.

Men should aim to intake no more than 30g of saturated fat per day, women 20g


The amount of sugar in a product is not always given. If this is the case look for where "sugar" appears in the ingredients list. The nearer the beginning of the list it is the more sugar the product contains. And be aware that sucrose, glucose syrup, golden syrup, maple syrup, treacle, invert sugar, honey, dextrose and maltose are all added sugar.

10g of sugar per 100g is a lot, 2g is a little.

Men should have no more that 34g of sugar per day, women 28g


Most sodium in foods come from added sodium chloride, otherwise known as salt. Most of us are aware that we should cut our salt intake because it can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of a stroke and heart disease.

0.5g or more of sodium per 100g is a lot, 0.1g per 100g is a little

Men should take no more than 2.5g of salt per day, and this is the same for women.


Fibre is needed for the digestive system. 3g or more per 100g is good, 0.5g per 100g is considered very little fibre.

Men and women should try to take more than 18g of fibre per day.


Protein helps to ensure growth and repair of body cells. At present there are no official figures on the amount of protein that is considered to be a little or a lot per 100g.

Women need 45g of protein per day and men should look to intake 56g.

Warning : Eating too much protein can damage the kidneys so try not to exceed 100g of protein per day.

  The advice and information on this web site is of general nature. Before embarking on any fitness regime or diet you should speak to your doctor to ensure that there are no health risks involved.