Good Nutrition Advice

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Tag: reading food labels

Breakfast Cereals Contain More Sugar than Doughnuts

Rice Krispies

Rice Krispies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A survey carried out by has found some cereals have a higher sugar content than many desserts, doughnuts and ice cream.

The main culprits were Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and Coco Pops along with Weetabix Minis Chocolate Crisp. Shreddies and Special K had more than some cakes.

This highlights the important of reading food labels before buying products that are claiming to the be healthy. Sugar is one of the major causes behind the current obesity crisis.

Sugar is a ‘fast releasing’ carbohydrate that encourages weight gain. It releases insulin into the body quickly and if this is not used up it will be stored as fat. also warned salt levels in these foods were higher than expected.

Sugar content of some popular food items

  • Kellogg’s Coco Pops – 14.8g (per 40g serving)
  • Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes – 13.6g
  • Kellogg’s Coco Rocks – 12.8g
  • Weetabix Minis Chocolate Crisp – 11.3g
  • Vienetta ice cream cake 11g per slice
  • Scoop of vanilla ice cream – 10g
  • Nestle Cheerios – 8.6g
  • Jam doughnut – 8.6g
  • Kellogg’s Special K – 6.8g
  • Nestle Shreddies – 6.2g
  • Nestle Shreddies – 6.2g
  • McVities chocolate cake – 5.4g per slice
  • Kellogg’s Rice Krispies – 4g
  • Kellogg’s Cornflakes – 3.2g

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How to Read Food Labels

US Nutritional Fact Label

US Nutritional Fact Label (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TO judge the quality of the food you are buying, take a close look at the Nutrition Facts panel which most foods have.

You can use the guide below to work out if the product contains high levels of fat, sugar or salt (sodium).

Fresh fruit makes a healthy, refreshing snack, but watch out for the processed fruit found in snacks. Processing concentrates fruit sugars until they become a sticky, calorie laden threat to teeth.

School Bars are over 60% sugar and Kellogg’s Fruit Winders are high in both sugar and saturated fat.

Fruit and vegetables are so essential to good health that we should all try to eat more than five portions of fruit and veg every day.

Fresh, frozen, chilled, canned (with no added sugar), freshly squeezed juice and dried fruit and vegetables all count.

Processed foods (such as ready meals) tend to contain low levels of fruit and vegetables and can also contain unhealthy levels of fat, sugar and salt.

Vitamin supplements (and many foods which contain added vitamins) do not have the same nutritional benefits as real fruit and vegetables.

Amount per 100g Amount per 100g
This is a lot This is a little
Total fat 20g 3g
Saturated fat 5g 1g
Sugar 10g 2g
Sodium 0.5g 0.1g

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Reading food labels – ‘farm fresh’ eggs

A CARTON of eggs can be called ‘farm fresh’ or ‘country-fresh’ and carry images of hens scratching in a farmyard, however these are probably eggs from caged battery hens.

The hens which lay ‘free-range’ eggs must have access to the outdoors, though in practice many are kept in such huge sheds that they rarely daylight.

‘Barn eggs’ are a halfway house between free range and battery systems.

The packaging on Class A ‘Lion Quality’ eggs says they come from ‘caged hens kept in carefully managed conditions’. These hens have to be ‘carefully managed’ because otherwise they would quickly die. In a typical cage, five fully-grown hens are crammed into a space only slightly larger than an A2 poster. Eggs from caged hens may be cheap, but the price in animal welfare is high.

‘Organic’ eggs are guaranteed to come from uncaged hens that are able to roam outside on organic pasture. They taste pretty good too!

Source: The Food Commission

Reading food labels

GOOD food labelling is essential if we’re to know what we’re actually buying. So many foods contain unhealthy levels of fat, sugar and salt, along with numerous additives and flavourings, but food labels often fail to make this clear and can sometimes even be deliberately deceptive.

What European Food Labels have to Tell you:

  • Weight or volume
  • Use by
  • Ingredients
  • Genetically modified (GM)
  • Place of origin
  • Nutrition information
  • Artificial sweeteners

Weight or Volume

An e symbol written next to the weight means that this is the average weight of the product, but that the weight of each pack may vary slightly. Use by dates are provided on highly perishable foods and it is illegal for shops to sell the food after this date. Best before dates are used on less perishable foods. Both use by and best before dates assume food has been correctly stored. Sell by or display-until dates are used by shops for stock control, and it is not an offence to sell food past its sell by date. However it wise to not eat foods that are older than their use by date because they could potentially be a health risk. Food eaten after its best before date may not be dangerous, but may no longer be at its best.

Genetically Modified (GM) Products

Products sold in Europe containing GM ingredients, derivatives or additives must be labelled as GM. But meat or dairy products from animals fed GM feed are not required to be labelled as such. Some foods may also be produced with GM enzymes (e.g. bakery products) but do not have to be labelled as GM.  Buying organic food will ensure you avoid GM ingredients, including those used in animal feed.

Place of Origin

There is no legal requirement for a product to display a place of origin except for beef, but labels should declare contact details for a manufacturer or importer. For beef cuts and mince, the country of origin, slaughter and processing must be shown.

Nutritional Information

Companies are not legally obliged to tell you the amount of nutrients such as calories, fat, sugar, fibre and salt (sodium) in their food – unless a claim is made e.g. low fat or high fibre.


Ingredients, including additives, must be listed in descending order of weight. Labels must state how much of a ‘characterising’ ingredient (such as the strawberry in a strawberry yogurt) is contained in the food (e.g. 5%). Some foods don’t have to declare their ingredients, such as sweets sold in small wrappers, food sold unwrapped from a bakery or delicatessen counter, and restaurant and take-away food. Alcoholic drinks do not need to list their ingredients either. Because ingredients are listed in descending order of weight you can quickly check what the main ingredients are in a product. For example, a chicken pie that lists chicken as the fifth ingredient probably doesn’t contain much chicken.

Artificial Sweeteners

If a product contains artificial sweeteners it must state ‘with sweeteners’ next to the product name. Many companies deliberately hide this information on the back of the packet, so always read the small print!

To judge the quality of the food which you buy, take a close look at the Nutrition Information panel which many foods display. You can use the guide below to work out if the product contains high levels of fat, sugar or salt (sodium). The servings marked in red are high – those in blue low. Figures are based on 100g. So 20g of fat per 100g serving is high while 3g of fat per 100g serving is low.

Nutrition Information

Total fat 20g 3g
Saturated fat 5g 1g
Sugar 10g 2g
Sodium 0.5g 0.1g

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