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Labelling – Cutting out the Noise

How to feel good about what goes in your supermarket trolley

Wander the aisles of any supermarket and you almost face sensory overload, how do you cut through this and make good choices for you and your family?

Go armed with a list

Know what you want, write it down and stick to it. Most grocery shoppers these days head off with a list (USA data shows 69% of women and 52% of men make grocery lists) BUT most deviate from the list when in store.

Read labels

To work out exactly where a food fits in your diet you really need to read labels. This is not as bad as it sounds. For some products the label doesn’t change often so it’s not something you need to do every time, rather when you’re looking at a new product, or if the product has a ‘new’ flag on it.

In early 2016 new legislation came into force setting out very strict guidelines about what health claims can be made on a food package. Any product that now makes a health claim like “good for heart health” or “helps build strong bones” has had to prove it meets nutritional criteria to make that claim. The criteria have been set after evaluating all the science behind linking particular foods or nutrients with health benefits.

Health Star Rating

The Health Star Rating allows you to compare similar packaged foods quickly and easily and it is only of use in comparing similar foods. For example two different boxes of cereal may look very similar but one has 4 stars and the other 2 stars. The greater the number of stars the healthier the product. It is particularly useful with products like cereals and muesli bars but does not apply to unpackaged foods or whole foods.

Portion Size


How much we eat is also important. Check out the portion size on packaged foods, use this as a guide to how much to put on your plate. Another very good rule of thumb for portion size is use a medium size (not a large) plate and when serving follow the ½, ¼, ¼ rule. 1/2 the plate vegetables, ¼ grain/ pasta/rice/potato and ¼ protein rich foods – fish, chicken, beans, chickpeas, lentils, meat. Treat foods should be just that, a treat not an everyday food.

Remember a healthy diet is one that has lots of vegetables and whole foods. When you’re choosing packaged foods have a look at the label – do you recognize the ingredients, how does it stack up compared to similar choices? And most importantly don’t eat too much.

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