How to Read Food Labels
Deciphering food labels can be quite tricky and confusing, especially if you have gut issues and are constantly on the lookout for problemsome ingredients.
That’s why we have done the hard work for you. Make sure you save this post to make food shopping a whole lot easier!
General Food Label Tips
1. Health Claims
Don’t be fooled by magic claims on packaging labels - the nutrition information panel is the best place to look to decide if the product is a good fit for you! Here are some common nutritional claims and what they actually mean:
- Low fat = less than 3g of fat per 100g (important note: this does not set apart healthy vs unhealthy fats)
- Reduced fat or salt = contains at least 25% less fat or salt compared to the original or regular product (it does not mean no added fat or salt and can still contain large amounts)
- No added sugar = no sugar was added during production (the product may still be naturally high in sugar e.g. fruit juice.
2. Serving Sizes
Watch out for recommended serve sizes - companies will often set unrealistic serving sizes e.g. much smaller than what we’d consume in one sitting. In doing so, this makes people believe the product has fewer calories and better macros e.g. one serve may mean ⅓ of a cookie but who wouldn’t eat the whole cookie in one sitting (we sure would!)?! So eating one whole cookie means you’re actually eating 3 servings.
Ingredients are listed in order from the highest quantity to lowest e.g. the first ingredient of our Banana Peanut Butter bars is peanuts which means they’re primarily made out of peanuts and only contain a little bit of banana oil and salt. Also, keep in mind the more ingredients a product has, the more it is usually processed.
How to Read Food Labels when following a Low FODMAP Diet
It’s easy to identify the FODMAP content of wholefoods like fruits and vegetables (thanks to Monash University and their app), however processed, packaged and premade (multi-ingredient) foods are harder to decode.
- Gluten free does not always mean FODMAP friendly (important note: gluten is not a FODMAP!). Keep an eye out for gluten free flours such as almond, amaranth, lupin, besan (chickpea) and soy, which are all high FODMAP.
- When purchasing lactose free products (especially yogurt), be mindful of high FODMAP flavours or sweeteners e.g. mango, fruit juice concentrate or honey.
- Be mindful of artificial sweeteners such as isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol (they’re commonly used in sugar-free products like chewing gum or cough syrups/lozenges). These are called polyols, they’re high FODMAP and often cause gut issues.
- Individual spices such as turmeric and cumin, and herbs such as basil or oregano, are naturally low FODMAP so don’t cause any gut issues. However products often list “vegetable powders” or “spices” as ingredients, which becomes a little tricky as they usually contain concentrated amounts of onion and/or garlic (sometimes this will be clearly stated in brackets, but not always).
- Watch out for "dietary fibre". Some companies add inulin or chicory root to products such as yogurt, biscuits and protein powders as a thickening agent or for an extra boost of fibre. Whilst fibre is great for our general health (gut health in particular), these types belong to a class of dietary fibres known as fructans which are high FODMAP.
- As previously mentioned, be mindful of nutritional claims e.g. “gut friendly”, as they often don’t carry much weight. Look out for products with the Monash University and FODMAP Friendly logos as they show that they have been independently tested and certified suitable for those on a low FODMAP diet.
Here at Fodbods, our products are all thoroughly researched, tested and certified FODMAP Friendly, which means 100% stress-free snacking.