Some food packaging nutrition labels use the red, amber and green (traffic light) colour coding.
Traffic light colour coding
Traffic light colour coding, as shown in the image above, tells you at a glance if the food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.
- red means high
- amber means medium
- green means low
Therefore the more green lights, the healthier the food choice.
If you buy a food that has all or mostly green lights, you know straight away that it's a healthier choice. An amber light means neither high nor low, so you can eat foods with all or mostly amber lights most of the time. But a red light means the food is high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugars and these are foods we should cut down on. Try to eat these foods less often and in small amounts.
Most pre-packed food products have nutritional information on the label and also have a list of ingredients on the packaging or on an attached label. The ingredients list can also help you work out how healthy the product is.
Ingredients are listed in order of weight, so the main ingredients in the packaged food always come first. That means that if the first few ingredients are high-fat ingredients, such as cream, butter or oil, then the food in question is a high-fat food.
Food shopping tips
You're standing in the supermarket aisle looking at two similar products, trying to decide which to choose. You want to make the healthier choice but you're in a hurry.
If you're buying ready meals, check to see if there's a nutrition label on the front of the pack, and then see how your choices stack up when it comes to the number of calories and the amount of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.
If the nutrition labels use traffic light colours, you will often find a mixture of red, amber and greens. So, when you're choosing between similar products, try to go for more greens and ambers, and fewer reds, if you want to make a healthier choice.
Watch out for salt intake, most adult are eating more salt than the recommended 6g a day. The sodium listed on the label rather than salt. To convert sodium into salt you need to multiply the measurement on the label by
Reduced fat and low fat are different. Low fat food means the product has 3g or less of fat per 100g. Reduced fat means the product has 25% lower fat than the standard product.
Portion sizes of manufacturers’ might be smaller than yours. A product may look healthy but even with healthier choices if you eat large portions, you may end up consuming more calories than you need.
Sugar is not always listed in the ingredients as ‘sugar’. Look out for the terms sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, honey, palm sugar, hydrolysed starch, syrup and invert sugar.