‘Traffic light’ labelling

We understand the importance of a healthy, balanced diet which includes reducing our intake of saturated fats, salt and sugar. But, we need to know how to apply this when we are food shopping.

This is where traffic light labelling can help.

Traffic light labelling is the system of displaying nutritional information in an easy to understand way via a series of traffic lights.

You will see three red, amber and green lights as well as the breakdown of fats, salt, sugars and saturated fats in grams. These will appear as a suggested ‘serving’ of that food or for the full portion.

So, you can check the nutritional value of a food as well as the number of calories – which is handy if you are trying to lose weight. You will find that ‘healthy’ options are lower in fat and calories than the standard versions. However, healthy options can sometimes be higher in fat, salt or sugars than a home produced version. A homemade meal can be healthier and cheaper.

The traffic light system works as thus:

  • Red: High
  • Amber: Medium
  • Green: Low

The following will be displayed on the front of a food:

  • Fat
  • Saturates
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Total number of calories

So, a healthy food could display the following:

  • Fat – Green (Low)
  • Saturates – Green (Low)
  • Sugar – Amber (Medium)
  • Salt – Green (Low)

Basically, the more green lights a food has, the healthier it is.

This is not to say that you cannot have a food with amber or red lights; after all a treat is good for us. Just have it occasionally or go for a smaller portion.

Many of the foods you see in the supermarket will have a mixture of these traffic lights. If you are looking for a health option then choose one with more green and amber lights than red.

If you are looking to eat more healthily then consider the following:

  • Good sources of protein such as fish, chicken and turkey. If you remove the skin from poultry then you will help to reduce the amount of fat in your diet.

Other protein choices include pulses, milk and other dairy products.

  • Limit your intake of foods high in saturated fat such as cakes, biscuits, pies and pastry.
  • Try and eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Remember, this can include tinned and frozen varieties.
  • Choose foods which are ‘low GI’, such as wholemeal bread, pasta and rice.
  • Include more starchy carbohydrates in your diet and reduce the number of sugars. However, if you are an athlete or exercise regularly then sugary carbohydrates can help if you need a quick energy boost.

The traffic light labelling system has been informed by the Food Standards Agency and is used by all companies.

If you want to know more about the nutritional breakdown of food and have the time then this information will still be displayed on the back of food packets.

The ingredients list contains other items such as protein, carbohydrates, fibre and E-numbers.

Food Labelling Guide Index:

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