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

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We live in a world where marketing and the media play a vital part of everyday life, full of attracting advertisements and tempting visual images on food labelling. How often have we tried a food item because it looks good on television, or because the label looks so enticing and promises only good things? To become an educated consumer, we should turn to the sides and back of the food product and read the labels carefully. The language that the marketers use should be interpreted carefully. As you read on, we will also give you an idea of which foods not to pick, and the importance of the ‘glycaemic index’.

  1. How to read the labels on food products
    (Interpreting packaging language & food labels)
    • List of Ingredients
      • Every packaged food contains a list of ingredients – the ingredient that the food contains the most of is always listed first, whilst the one that the food contains the least of is listed last.
  2. 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. It is important to note whether the amount of fats, proteins and sugars listed is for a standard serving size, or for the whole food product.
  3. Calories
    • Labels often tell us 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.
  4. Percentage (%) of Daily Value
    • This tells us what portion of the total recommended daily amount of each nutrient is found in each serving. These include ingredients such as sodium, cholesterol, fat and carbohydrates.
  5. Interpreting the language on food labels
    • Beware the words ‘light, low fat and lite’ options. Food companies may use the word light to refer to the food being light in colour, taste or texture, not fat or calories.
  6. Think twice about the following claims that food companies may make
    Often they are too good to be true. Some of these include:
    • The product causes substantial weight loss regardless of how much we eat.
    • 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 more tips on types of claims to be aware of, visit our website Shopping guide for healthy food choices.
  7. Which foods not to pick
    • We should try and choose foods that are low in fat, sugars and salt. For more information on nutrition and healthy eating tips, visit our articles on Nutrition & Men, Nutrition & Women and Nutrition & Children.

      There are foods which have obvious amounts of fat, such as visible fat on cuts of meat, deep fried foods and in spreads such as butter, but there is also a lot of hidden fats in foods like pies, cakes, biscuits, burgers and sausages.

      Many foods often contain hidden sugars. For example, we may think we 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 read the labels on the back of all foods, even if they seem to be healthy.

  8. Foods with low glycaemic index & balance
    • Glycaemic index (GI) is defined as the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels, compared to the effect of the same amount of pure sugar, on blood sugar levels. Foods with a low GI (less than 55) means that they cause a slower and lower rise in blood sugar levels. These include: breads such as mixed-grain and fruit and oat breads, barley, pasta, noodles, beans and milk. Foods with a high GI (greater than 70) means that they cause a faster and higher rise in blood sugar levels. High GI foods include: white bread, brown rice, French fries and coffee. We should try to consume foods that have a low GI – apart from a slower and lower rise in blood sugar levels, these foods are often also more healthy and nutritious.

For more tips on maintaining a healthy diet and incorporating the GI index into your daily routine, and also general advice on glucose control, visit our website for blood glucose control.

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

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


Created by: myVMC