How To Read Food Labels, Made Easier

It turns out, you don't actually need a degree in nutrition...
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Learning how to read food labels can take you a long way in your journey to become a healthier you. And as it turns out, it's not as complicated as it looks.

Nutritionist and fitness trainer Isilda da Costa shared five tips with HuffPost SA on making the most of the information on the "nutrition facts" label.

1. As much as is possible, avoid anything with food labels

Firstly, try to avoid anything with a food label on it. If it has no other ingredients, then you know it's natural food -- and that's the best food for you.

2. The shorter the ingredient list, the better

This means the product is closer to its natural state, without too many added salts, flavours and other fillers.

3. Pay close attention to the sugar content

If sugar is in the top five ingredients, including hidden in names like beet sugar, molasses, evaporated cane juice or barley malt, then it is best to avoid the product.

Furthermore, ingredients are always listed in the order of the percentage of the product that they make up, so if sugar is top on the list, you know that the product is high in sugar.

4. "Trans fat" can be misleading

Even if there are 0g of trans fat listed on the nutrition label, it does not mean that there is no trans fat in the product. Legally, companies are allowed to state that a product contains no trans-fats if it contains less than 0.5g, which is still trans fat!

Trans fats may be labelled as hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil, and they can be in anything from vegetable oil to palm oil, depending on how those oils have been processed.

5. Be wary of big names you've never seen or heard before

If there are any ingredients you do not recognise, then you might want to stay away from that product until you know what they are and what they mean.

"I'm not saying you can never have your favourite packaged food again, but it should not be a staple in your diet," da Costa concluded.