How to Read a Nutritional Panel
1. Start with serving Size
This is amount the manufacturer has decided is single serving, and the values in the ‘Quantity per Serving’ column are based on this. Ask yourself if the serving size determined by the panel reflects the amount you will actually eat – if not, the ‘Quantity per Serving’ and ‘% Daily Intake’ values won’t be relevant.
2. The ‘% Daily Intake per Serving’
This column compares the amount of nutrients in one serving of the food with the nutrient needs of an average adult. It is based on an energy intake of 8700kJ per day. It can give you an idea of whether a food is particularly high or low in nutrients depending on the percentage contained in a serving.
3. Serving Size
Not all products have the same serving size, so comparing similar products can be tricky. The ‘Quantity per 100g’ column allows you to directly compare foods.
4. Check the Kilojoules
Make sure the amount of energy in the food isn’t too high or low for your individual needs. The ‘% Daily Intake’ energy value can be useful if your energy needs are ‘average’ (i.e. your energy needs are about 8700kJ per day).
5. ‘Negative Nutrients’
Watch out for ‘negative’ nutrients. Total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sugars and sodium can all have an adverse effect on health if over consumed. Make sure you are eating enough for your needs, but not more than this.
6. ‘Positive Nutrients’
Look for the ‘positive’ nutrients. It’s important to eat a diet that contains enough dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals, so look for products that show these nutrients in their panels. If the % Daily Intake value for these nutrients is more than 10%, that’s a good thing!