Understanding food labels is critical to healthy eating
How healthy are South Africa’s kids? According to Health Active Kids South Africa (HAKSA), a nationwide report compiled by Discovery Vitality on the health of the country’s children showed that our kids aren’t as healthy as they should be.
Obesity is the number one risk factor for diseases of lifestyle like heart disease and stroke, according to Discovery Vitality’s most recent ObeCity Index. Discovery Vitality’s Health Active Kids report found that almost 25% of South African children are overweight or obese. The report noted that, without intervention, obese children almost always grow up to be obese adults.
This is why it’s so important to start your kids off with healthy habits while they are still young. It will greatly increase the chances of them carrying those good habits into their adult lives.
Make better choices when shopping
Of course, when it comes to diet, fresh fruits and vegetables always top the table for the most nutritional value. But even the dietitians who compile the Vitality HealthyFood catalogue know that sometimes convenience foods are just too convenient to resist! When this happens, it’s still possible to make a relatively healthy choice by checking the label.
If you don’t examine your food labels, you could end up buying products that are far higher in salt, sugar, saturated, or trans fat than you imagine. Knowing how to interpret a nutrition label will help you make smarter choices.
Learn to examine packaged food labels
There are two main parts to a nutrition label: the first deals with the values of each nutrient in the food; the other deals with the ingredients. When you’re looking at a label to see how healthy a product is, it’s important to look at both. For instance, you can check the ingredients to see if the product contains added sugar, because some products list it under names you may not recognise, like maltose or dextrose. The nutritional information table will then tell you the amount of sugar in the product.
Tips to interpret the nutritional information table
When buying packaged foods, check that at least some of these criteria in the typical nutritional values table are met to make sure the product is a healthier option:
- Low in fat or fat-free: the product should contain no more than 3g of fat per 100g and no more than 1.5g of saturated fat per 100g for solid foods. It should also not contain more than 10% of total energy from saturated fat. Liquid foods should not contain any more than 0.75g per 100ml of saturated fat.
- Low in sugar: solid food products should not contain any more than 5g of sugar per 100g and no more than 2.5g per 100ml for liquids.
- High in fibre: Look for products that contain 6g or more fibre per 100g.
Products that have added vitamins and minerals are also a good choice.
What to look out for in the ingredients list
In the ingredients list, check:
- Any carbohydrates should preferably be whole grains. Avoid foods that list bleached flour, as this is unhealthier white flour.
- Salt, sugar, and added fats should be listed towards the end of the list rather than towards the beginning.
- The added salt content should be below 500mg of sodium. Remember that salt may be listed as sodium benzoate, disodium, sodium nitrate, or monosodium glutamate.
- Watch out for ingredients that end in ‘ose’, like ‘maltose’ – they’re sugars.
In response to this research, Discovery Vitality is introducing a fun, new way to teach you and your family about how to incorporate healthy habits into your lifestyles. Using a social media platform called Vine, Discovery Vitality is running the Grow Up Fit SA campaign: every day in June, which is Youth Month, we will release a six-second video snippet to show you how just how simple and enjoyable it is to Grow Up Fit!
Look out for topics like how to improve your diet by incorporating more tasty vegetables, why sugar and salt are best in moderation and creative, engaging ways to get your kids active!
Find us at Vine on Vine.co/Discovery_SA or follow us on Twitter @Discovery_SA for your daily update on how to improve your and your kids’ health!
About Discovery Limited
Discovery Limited is a South African-founded financial services organisation that operates in the healthcare, life assurance, short-term insurance, savings and investment products and wellness markets. Founded in 1992, Discovery was guided by a clear core purpose – to make people healthier and to enhance and protect their lives. Underpinning this core purpose is the belief that through innovation, Discovery can be a powerful market disruptor.
The company, with headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, has expanded its operations globally and currently serves over 4.4 million clients across South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Singapore and Australia. Discovery recently announced an intent to partner with Generali, a leading insurer in Europe, and has partnered John Hancock in the US. These new partnerships will bring Discovery’s shared-value business model to protection industries in Europe and the US.
Vitality, Discovery’s wellness programme, is the world’s largest scientific, incentive-based wellness solution for individuals and corporates. The global Vitality membership base now exceeds three million lives in five markets.
Discovery is an authorised financial services provider and trades under the code “DSY” on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange.
Follow us on Twitter @Discovery_SA