1. How Do You Tell How Much Sugar, Fat Or Salt Is In A Product? 

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One can refer to the nutritional information panel on the package under “Total Sugars”, “Total Fat” and “Sodium” to tell how much sugar, fat or salt is in a product.

But the first place to start is to look for the serving size and the number of servings in the package.

Many packaged products contain more than a single serving. Consumers need to compare the serving size on the label with how much they will actually eat and adjust their calculations accordingly.

2. If A Products Says It Has No Trans Fat, Does It Truly Mean That? 


In Singapore, a product has to contain less than 0.5g of trans fatty acids per 100g in order to claim that it is trans fat free.

However, for products imported from countries such as the United States, “zero trans fat”?actually means less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving instead of per 100g.

Besides checking for the calorie count on the nutritional information panel, consumers should also look out for the amounts of nutrients that have an impact on their health, such as sugar, sodium and total fats which include saturated fat and trans fat. They should check for the amount of nutrients which are known to be beneficial, such as vitamins and minerals and dietary fibre

3. How Is One Supposed To Make Sense Of These Numbers? What Does It Mean In Terms Of Person’s Everyday Diet? 

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A well-balanced diet consists of a good mixture of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals. An unbalanced diet with too much “negative nutrients”, such as fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium, may increase risk of certain chronic diseases, like heart disease or high blood pressure.

It is recommended that the intake of sugar, saturated fat and trans fat is kept as low as possible as part of a nutritionally balanced diet.

Sufficient intake of nutrients, such as dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron can improve health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions.


4. Is It More Important To Know The Overall Calories In The Product Rather Than The Individual Ingredients

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The source of calories and overall calories are equally important. Even when calories are equivalent between different foods, a nutrient-dense food such as boiled eggs versus energy-dense food such as cake can have vastly different effects on satiety and metabolism and hence vary in their potential to cause overeating and weight gain.

Even though calories are important, counting them or even being consciously aware of them is not at all necessary to lose weight.

One should plan a diet that includes a balance of grains, vegetables, fruit, meats and milk products. The combination of many different foods provides the abundance of nutrients essential to a healthy diet.

5. What Are Some Other Things One Should Look Out For When Reading Food Labels? 

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Besides those mentioned above, one should also look out for the ingredients list.

All packaged foods must list all ingredients on the label in descending order by proportion of weight.

If one is concerned about sugar intake, make sure that added sugars are not listed as one of the first few ingredients. Other names for added sugars include: corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, honey and maple syrup. One can also check for additives like artificial colouring and preservatives.

Those with food allergies should look at the allergen labelling wherever it is available. This includes the declaration of foods and ingredients (including components of compound ingredients) that are known to cause hypersensitivity.

Consumers can also look for products with nutrient claims, such as reduced fat, low sugar or high dietary fibre to get healthier options. They can also get products with the Healthier Choice symbol.

Text: Ng Wan Ching/The Straits Times