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Lite, light and low in calories: When has shopping for foods become such a ‘de-lite’? Top 5 food tips for making the right choice

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Through the various forms of marketing and media in contemporary society, there has been increasing promotion of healthy eating and nutrition. More often that not, one is enticed towards trying a new food item because it looks good on television or because of the attraction of the food label. It is important to be aware of some of the misleading advertising surrounding the food products, and be able to correctly interpret labels. We should also be aware of which foods seem healthy but need further scrutinising and the importance of the ‘glycaemic index’.

  1. How to read the labels on food products
    (Interpreting packaging language & food labels)
    • List of Ingredients
      • The ingredient that the food contains the most of is always listed first, whilst the ingredient that the food contains the least of is listed last
    • Recommended serving sizes, calories per serving and amount per serving
      • Serving size is a standard measure of the food, telling us how much food makes up one serving. When interpreting the amount of fats, proteins, sugars, etc that a product contains, it is important to note whether the list is for a standard serving size, or for the whole food product.
  2. Calories
    • Labels often contain the amount of calories obtained from fats in the product. It is recommended that no more than 30% of our daily calories come from fats.2
  3. Percentage (%) of Daily Value
    • This part of the labelling conveys the portion of the total recommended daily amount of each nutrient that is found in each serving. These include ingredients such as sodium, cholesterol, fat and carbohydrates.1
  4. In contemporary times, food companies have invested a lot of time and effort into advertising their food products and the media is full of marketing hype regarding food packaging and its contents. As consumers of the products, and to be able to advise our patients appropriately regarding their food consumption, we have to be aware of misleading claims and be able to correctly interpret food packaging labels. Food labels should all contain the following sub headings:

  5. Packaging language
    • Words such as ‘light, low fat and lite’ options have to be interpreted in the correct context. Marketers may use the word light to refer to the food being light in colour, taste or texture, not fat or calories.
  6. Food companies often make many claims that are too good to be true
    It is important to be aware of the following claims:
    • The product causes substantial weight loss regardless of how much the patient consumes.
    • The product causes weight loss for all users.
    • Users are able to safely loose more than 1.5kg per week for more than a month.
    • For a more comprehensive list of types of claims to be aware of, visit our website:Shopping guide for healthy food choices
  7. Foods to avoid, that often contain hidden / undesirable calories and ingredients
    • We should try and encourage consumption of foods that are low in fat, sugars and salt. For more information on nutrition and healthy eating tips, more information can be found in these articles: Nutrition & Men, Nutrition & Women and Nutrition & Children. Whereas many people in the population are aware of and can spot foods which have obvious amounts of fat, (fat on cuts of meat, deep fried foods and in spreads such as butter), there is also a lot of hidden fats in processed foods (pies, cakes, biscuits and sausages).

      Many foods also contain hidden sugars. For example, consumers may think they are choosing a healthy option by picking museli bars and cereals. However, some museli bars and cereals contain high amounts of sugar, so it is important to stress the fact that they must always read the labels on the back of all foods.3

  8. Foods with low glycaemic index & balance
    • Glycaemic index (GI) is a measure of the effect that a carbohydrate containing food has on blood glucose levels compared to the effect of the same amount of pure glucose, on blood glucose levels. Foods with a low GI (less than 55) means that they cause a slower and lower rise in blood glucose levels. (For example: mixed-grain breads, barley, pasta, noodles and beans). Foods with a high GI cause a faster and higher rise in blood glucose levels. High GI foods include: white bread, brown rice, jasmine rice and coffee.4 We should encourage patients to consume foods that have a low GI – for more information on blood glucose control.

For more information on lifestyle modifications for weight loss click here.


  1. Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA), Label interpretation [online]. 2003 [cited 25th April 2007]. Available from URL: foodlabellingissuesquantitativeresearchconsumersjune2003/ part1executivesummary/4labelinterpretation.cfm
  2. Dwyer J. Harrisons Principles of Internal Medicine; Nutritional Requirements and Dietary Assessment. USA: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2006
  3. Healthy Eating Guidelines [online]. 2006 [cited 18th April 2006]. Available from URL:
  4. Longmore JM, Hope RA, Longmore M. et al. Oxford Handbook of Specialties; USA: Oxford University Press Inc. 2001

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Posted On: 4 June, 2007
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


Created by: myVMC