How to read food labels for healthy eating

If reading food labels seems confusing, start by taking this checklist with you when you next go shopping.

Saturated fat

Aim for 2 grams or less per 100g. NZ National Nutritional Guidelines recommend no more than 12% of energy to be supplied from saturated fats.

Fats generally

Breakfast Cereals aim for 5g or less per 100g

Biscuits aim for 10g or less per 100g

Milk and yoghurt aim for 2g or less per 100g

Ice Cream aim for 2.5g or less per 100g

Other foods aim for less than 10g per 100g

NZ National Nutrition Guidelines recommend:

  • Total fat: 30-33% of total energy intake
  • Saturated fats: No more than 12%
  • Poly-unsaturated fats: 6-10%
  • Mono-unsaturated fats: 10-20%

Dietary fibre

Aim for at least 3g of per 100g in breakfast cereals and bread. Fruits and vegetables also contain fibre. NZ National Nutritional Guidelines recommend 25-30g per day.

Sodium (aka: salt)

Aim for less than 400mg per 100g. NZ National Nutritional Guidelines recommend 920-2300mg per day. Be careful – many canned and packeted foods will contain almost your full daily requirement!


Choose ‘no added sugar’ food items or less than 15g /100g for breakfast cereals and sweet snacks. All carbohydrates are broken down into sugar. Choose whole foods, as close to their natural form as possible, and aim for unprocessed and low GI carbohydrates. If you’re not sure about whether it’s natural, think about whether you’ve ever seen it growing on a tree or in the ground, or whether it’s a natural meat source.

In general

If you do not know what an ingredient on a food label is, chances are it’s not good for you. So if the label shows 10 highly scientific-looking ingredients, chances are that this food is not close to its natural form! The more numbers you see (“E’ numbers) on a label, the more artificial the product is likely to be.

Recipe: Spicy Chicken


  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2-3 Thai peppers, sliced
  • 1 cup onion in fine wedges
  • 250g chicken breast
  • 2 cups broccoli
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 cup fresh basil


Cut chicken into 1/8 slices. Cut broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Heat wok with oil, and then fry garlic until fragrant. Add onions, peppers and chicken. Stir fry chicken until it just turns white. Add broccoli and fry for 1-2 mins. Add sugar, fish sauce, oyster sauce and chilli powder. Stir in basil and cook until basil begins to wilt.

Serve warm with rice.

Nutritional Info

Servings per recipe: 4

Amount per serving:

Calories: 114.5

Total Fat: 7.6g

Cholesterol: 5.4mg

Sodium 568.7mg

Total Carbs: 9.0g

Dietary Fibre: 3.0g

Protein: 4.8g

Visit Elly’s holistic health and fitness website for more on how to live a balanced life.

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