Nutrition Labelling

Nutrition Labelling

Nutrition labelling of food

Watch more videos

Nutrition information helps you keep track of what you’re eating and enables you to choose between different products to get the best one for you. The nutrition information panel (NIP) helps you compare key nutrients and serving sizes whilst some food labels will also include information on percentage daily intake and promote nutrition or health claims too.

Nutrition Information Panel (NIP)

Use these panels to compare the key nutrient contents, e.g. salt (sodium), sugar, carbohydrate and fat, of the food you buy to make sure you get the best balance for your dietary needs. A typical NIP is shown below.

Nutrition information panel (NIP)

Comparing products using quantity per serving and quantity per 100g

If you want to compare two similar products it’s best to check if they have the same serving sizes first. If not, then compare the nutrient content (e.g. grams of fat) using the Quantity per 100g column to ensure you’re comparing like with like.

For instance, if 20 grams of fat is listed in the ‘per 100g’ column, this means the product is 20% fat and a high fat food.

It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on how many serves there are in the pack. If you only eat half the serve amount, then you’ll need to halve the quantity per serving values shown. Similarly, if you eat two serves, you’ll need to double the same values.

NIP wallet card resource PDF 135 KB

Explaining the nutrients you see on the Nutrition Information Panel

  • Calcium
  • Sugar
  • Sodium (salt)
  • Fat

What is Calcium?

Most people get their calcium from dairy products, although other foods do contain calcium. It’s really important to get enough calcium each day because it is vital for strengthening bones and teeth, regulating heart and muscle functioning as well as helping with blood clotting and the health of the nervous system.

How much should I eat?

Your calcium needs will change throughout you life – young children, teenagers and older women all tend to need more than average requirements.

Try to eat 2-3 serves of dairy each day.
Babies 300 mg per day (if breast fed)
500 mg per day (if bottle fed)
Young children (up to 11 years old) 700-900 mg per day
12 – 20 years old 1000-1200 mg per day
20 - 60 years old 800 mg per day
Breastfeeding women 1200 mg per day
The elderly (60 years plus) 1000 mg per day

What foods should I limit?

If you eat certain foods at the same time as calcium-rich foods you can actually reduce your body’s ability to use the calcium. Try to avoid eating the following foods with calcium-rich foods:

  • Spinach
  • Rhubarb
  • Peanuts
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Lentils
Try to eat 2-3 serves of dairy foods each day.
Milk, yoghurt, cheese 200g tub of yoghurt or 1 cup of milk = 300mg of calcium
Leafy green vegetables (bok choy, Chinese cabbage, broccoli) One cup of cooked broccoli = 45mg of calcium
Soy and Tofu  
Fish (sardines and salmon with bones) ½ cup of tinned salmon = 402mg calcium
Nuts and seeds (brazil nuts, almonds, sesame paste/tahini) 15 almonds = 40mg of calcium
Calcium fortified foods (some breakfast cereals, fruit juices, breads) 2 slices of bread (30g) = 200mg of calcium
½ cup fortified juice (100ml) = 80 mg of calcium

What is Sugar?

Sugar occurs naturally in some foods, like fruit and dairy products, and is often added to others during processing. Essentially, sugar is a carbohydrate, and as such, a source of energy.

There are lots of different types of sugar – the most common being white, brown, raw and caster sugar as well as honey and corn syrup. Other terms for sugars include fructose, glucose, sucrose, lactose and maltose.

How much should I eat?

Eating a bit of refined sugar is fine as a simple source of energy but if it’s eaten instead of more nutritious foods, it’s just empty kilojoules.

Too many sugary foods and drinks can cause tooth decay and the extra kilojoules may stop you from controlling your weight.

Healthy adults should get no more than 10-15% of their daily energy intake from sugars.

What foods should I limit?

  • Chocolate
  • Potato chips
  • Cakes
  • Processed foods
  • Soft drinks
  • Biscuits
  • Ice cream
  • Processed foods
  • Lollies

What is Salt?

Salt is important in maintaining water balance and blood pressure in our bodies as well as being essential for muscle and nerve activity.

Salt (or sodium chloride) contains two minerals – sodium and chlorine – but it’s the sodium we need to watch out for.

That’s why salt is shown as levels of ‘sodium’ on food labels.

How much should I eat?

Most of the salt we eat comes from processed foods. In fact, many Australians eat far more than they need because it’s already in the processed foods we buy.

Eating too much salt can raise blood pressure which in turn increases the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Australian adults should eat no more than 6g of salt (2300mg of sodium) each day. That’s about one level teaspoon of salt per day.

Low-Salt foods = food with less than 120 mg of sodium per 100g

What foods should I limit?

  • Salty snacks, like chips and nuts
  • Ready-prepared meals
  • Bacon
  • Cheese
  • Smoked fish
  • Pizza
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Sauces, e.g. soy sauce
  • Pickles
  • Canned soups
  • Baked beans

What is Fat?

Fat is important to keep you warm, protect your organs and help absorb and move nutrients around your body.

There are four key types of dietary fat which can be split into those that increase blood cholesterol and those that actually lower it.

Good Fats Bad Fats

Unsaturated Fats

  • Help to lower blood cholesterol levels
  • Two types: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated
  • Polyunsaturated fats are better at reducing cholesterol and are better known as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats

e.g. canola spread, avocado, peanuts

Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fats

  • found in both plant and seafood
  • reduce the risk of heart disease and lower blood cholesterol levels

e.g. salmon, sardines, safflower, soy oils

Saturated Fats

  • raise blood cholesterol levels
  • commonly found in fast foods and commercial products, e.g. biscuits and pastries

e.g. full fat dairy, deep fried foods

Trans Fatty Acids

  • formed when liquid oil is turned into solid fat through a process called hydrogenation
  • can be found in very small amounts in milk, cheese, beef and lamb
  • behave like saturated fats in the body and raise blood cholesterol levels

e.g. hydrogenated vegetable oil

How much should I eat?

Everyone needs some fat in their diets but we need to be careful in choosing the types of fat we eat.

Eating too much saturated and trans fats has been linked to heart disease so try to eat more unsaturated fats instead.

A moderate fat intake for healthy adults is approximate 30% of their total daily energy consumption. If you’re trying to lose weight then it should be 20-25%.

Be careful of your portion sizes – fat has more than twice as many kilojoules, by weight, as carbohydrate and protein.

What foods should I limit?

  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • full fat milk and cream
  • Butter and cheese
  • coconut and palm oil
  • Biscuits and pastries
  • deep fried foods and takeaways

What foods contain the good unsaturated fats?

  • Avocado
  • Nuts (e.g. walnuts, brazil nuts)
  • Seeds
  • Olive oil and canola based margarine spreads and all polyunsaturated margarines
  • Seafood
  • Oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, sardines) and fish oils
  • Olive, canola, sunflower, corn, safflower, soy and peanut oils

Percentage daily intake

Some food products also list percentage daily intake information. You may find this within the nutrition information panel, e.g. 6.4g of dietary fibre is 21.3% of your daily intake, or pulled out separately as just “this food contains 21.3% of your daily fibre needs”.

Percentage daily intake refers to how much an average adult should eat in one day. Most women and children would need less than this. For example, a food which provides 10% of the recommended kilojoules for an adult male may provide 20% of the recommended kilojoules for a child.

Nutrition claims

Nutrition claims also appear frequently on food labels. Some common ones you may have seen include “low fat”, “reduced salt” or “good source of calcium”.

Currently, many of these nutrition claims are managed through a voluntary code known as the Code of Conduct for the Provision of Information on Food Products, 1995. However, manufacturers cannot make specific claims such as ‘low in fat’, ‘high in fibre’, ‘reduced sugar’ unless they meet specific criteria set by FSANZ.

For example:

Low Fat foods = 3g or less of fat per 100g product
Reduced Fat foods = 25% less fat than the regular product + at least 3g less fat per 100g of the product
Low-Salt foods = 120 mg or less of sodium per 100g product

While nutrition claims are useful guides, you should still check the nutrition information panel. Even if a food is ‘low in fat’, it could still be very high in salt.

Using the NIP will enable you to keep an eye on the amount of all nutrients in your food, not just on any one in particular.