Healthy eating is very important for people living with diabetes. Often time type-2 diabetes occurs along with cholesterol and high blood pressure therefore it is important to choose foods that are lower not only in sugar but also in salt and fat, especially saturated fat and trans fats. 

Food labels put on food packaging that we buy can be very confusing making it hard to figure out the healthy choice. But here are some easy tips to help you decipher food labels and understand what to look for to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

The traffic light labels

There is no obligation for companies to put labels on the front of their packaging. When they do, they usually use the traffic light coding. These are meant to tell you whether a product has low, medium or high amounts of fats, saturated fats, sugars and salt. Their purpose is to let you see at a glance if a product is healthy or unhealthy so you can make an informed choice of what you decide to put into your basket when shopping. 


This label means that the food is low in fat, saturated fat, sugars and salts. The more green on the label, the healthier the food. 


This label means that the food has a medium level of fat, sugars and salts. Amber means that it is ok to have these foods some of the time.


This labels means that the foods are high in fat, sugars and salts. Red means you should have these foods occasionally and perhaps in small portions. 

What values are considered low, medium or high?

Each value is defined per 100g of food contained in the packaging and sometimes it is also given per typical serving or portion size.

For example, if you’re trying to cut down on sugars, try buy food that are on the low range and eat fewer foods that are on the medium and high range and or have them occasionally and in smaller amounts.

Energy, Calories and Reference intakes

Nutrition labels also indicate the energy in kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal), usually referred to as calories per packaging or and sometimes per 100g, typical serving or portion size. For example, the calorie for this food is 542kcal for a pack of 220g.

Reference intakes often time is shortened as RI and is found on the front of the packaging label. It provides information on how a particular food or drink product fits into your daily recommended diet. Reference intakes are guidelines about the approximate amount of particular nutrients and energy required for a healthy diet.

For example the sugar content in this product contributes to 42% of your Reference Intake or how much sugar you should be having a day which is considered a healthy value. 

List of ingredients

The ingredient list can also help you work out if a packaged food is a healthy choice or not. Usually ingredients are listed in order of weight which means the main ingredients come first in the list. Therefore, if you spot that the first ingredients contain high amounts of fats such as butter, cream or hydrogenated oils then you know that this food is high in fats. 


When shopping, aim for the products that have the more greens and ambers and the lesser reds so you can pick the healthier choice. 

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