How to read food labels

In recent years, food labels have become easier to read and interpret, but labels usually convey a lot of information. It can be tricky to understand everything that appears on them. 

How to read food labels on the front of packaging

Many manufacturers now use a traffic light system to label foods which lets you see, at a glance, if a food has high, medium or low levels of fat, salt and sugars1.

  • Green: Low – stick to as many greens as possible as these are the healthier choices2
  • Amber: Medium – means these foods can be eaten most of the time but in moderation2
  • Red: High – means food is high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugars. These are the foods which should be limited. Foods with red labelling needn’t be avoided altogether but make sure that they don’t make up the majority of your child’s diet2

Traffic Light Food Labels

Image from NHS Change4Life:

How to read food labels on the back or sides of packaging

Nutrition labels are often displayed as a panel or grid on the back or side of packaging. This type of label includes information on the energy (kJ or kcal), fat, saturates, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt.

There may also be additional information of certain nutrients, such as fibre. Information is provided by per 100 grams, and often per portion2


  1. NHS Change4Life: Accessed 22nd March 2017
  2. NHS Livewell: accessed 22nd March 2017