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How to decode nutrition claims on packaging?

“Rich in vitamins”, “sugar-free”, “low in fat”… These nutritional claims, which are heard in advertisements and which are written on the packaging, are strongly regulated. Deciphering.

Interesting but…

Food claims can be very interesting but must be taken with care for two reasons:

There is no miracle food! Some foods can of course provide interesting supplements, especially in the context of specific diets (diets, allergies, deficiencies, etc.) but for most of us, the important thing is the general balance over the day, or even over the week. One food in particular will not replace the intake of a varied and balanced diet.
Beware of what is not said! A food promoted on television as “rich in calcium” may be full of sugars and fats, and this, a priori, you are not told. It is often misleading to reduce a food to one of its nutritional components.

What is really behind nutrition claims?

Information about sugar

“Sugar-free”: the food is very low in sugar, containing no more than 0.5 g of sugar per 100 g or 100 ml of product.

“Sugar-reduced”: it contains at least 30% less sugar than a similar product. This does not mean that the product is low in sugars, but that it can be an interesting alternative to the consumption of “standard” products.

“No added sugars”: the product has not had any sugars or sweeteners added during its manufacture, but it may contain the sugars naturally present in the food that was used to prepare it (fruit juice, compotes, etc.).

Information about salt

“Reduced Salt/Sodium”: the food contains at least 25% less salt than a similar product. It is potentially still salty but less than the majority of equivalent products.

“Low Salt/Sodium”: Contains no more than 0.12 g of sodium per 100 g or 100 ml of product (i.e. 0.3 g of salt per 100 g or 100 ml of product).

“Salt-free”: it contains no more than 0.005 g of sodium per 100 g or 100 ml, which is very low.

Information on fat

“Fat-free”: the food contains less than 0.5 g of fat per 100 g or 100 ml of product, which is actually very low fat.

“Light in fat”: it contains at least 30% less fat than a similar product.

“Low-fat”: It contains no more than 3 g of fat per 100 g or 1.5 g per 100 ml of product.

Some other claims

“Source of vitamins and/or minerals”: if the vitamin and/or mineral content of the food concerned is significant (at least 15% of daily intake per 100 g).

“Source of fibre”: if the fibre content is greater than or equal to 3 g per 100 g or 1.5 g per 100 kcal.

“Source of omega 3”: if the (ALA) content is bigger than or equal to 0.3 g per 100 g, 100 ml or 100 kcal or if the (DHA) content is greater than or equal to 0.018 g per 100 g, 100 ml or 100 kcal.

“Rich in…”: if the food contains two or more times the values defined for “the source of…”.

Tips for learning to read labels

Nutrition claims are not the only interesting information about the composition of the product you are holding in your hand. Focus on the ingredient list… They are listed in descending order of weight. This way, you will realize that on some products, the main ingredient may be fat, or even salt! Also remember this simple rule: the longer the list of ingredients, the more the product has been processed and therefore contains many additives.

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