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Reading Food Labels

To help work out the amount of carbohydrates (or number of exchanges) in a food, and knowing what to look out for when making your choices, a basic understanding of food labels is important. An example of a food label is below.

Average Quantity per Serving % Daily Intake per Serving Average Quanity per 100g
Energy 751 kJ 9%  905 kJ
Protein 11.2 g 22% 13.5 g
Fat, total 4.8 g 7% 5.8 g
saturated 0.7 g 3% 0.8 g
Carbohydrate 19.9 g 6% 24.0 g
– sugars 2.4 g 3% 2.9 g
Dietary Fibre, Total 5.6 g 19% 6.8 g
soluble 1.7 g 2.1 g
insoluble 3.9 g 4.7 g
Sodium 361 mg 16% 435 mg
Iron 1.6 mg (13% RDI) 1.9 mg


Carbohydrate: In Australia and New Zealand and other parts of the world the label (nutrition information panel- NIP) will just say: “Carbohydrates” with Sugars listed underneath.

The term carbohydrate only includes the starches and sugars in the food. It does not include fibre because fibre is not broken down during digestion.

Therefore “Total Carbohydrate” includes the starches, sugars and fibre in the food.

It is recommended that between 45-55% of your energy intake (calories/kilojoules) should come from carbohydrates – see Explaining Carbohydrates.

Protein: Although protein has a neutral effect on your BGLs it is still important as it is used to build and repair muscles, skin and other cells. The recommended amount is between 10-20% of your total daily energy intake (calories/kilojoules).

Fats: Fat in foods can help you feel full, are a major energy source (after carbs) and help with the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. General recommendations are for people to get between 20-35% of their energy from fats. However the main source should be from the more healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated sources rather than trans-fats or saturated fats. Less than 7% of energy should come from saturated fats. (source: Healthy Eating for Type 2 Diabetes, Harvard Health Publication, 2012).

GI labelling: The GI of a food cannot be guessed by just looking at the label and ingredients of the product. It needs to be tested by a laboratory using the international standards for testing the GI of foods. In most countries it is mandatory for the GI value to be listed near the NIP if a low GI claim is made on the packaging.

Another quick and easy way to know the food is low GI is to look out for the low GI Symbol on food packaging.

The GI Symbol is our guarantee to consumers that they can trust that the GI value stated near the nutrition information label is accurate (companies need to adhere to our GI testing policy) and that the food meets strict nutritional criteria for kilojoules, saturated fat and sodium, and where appropriate, fibre and calcium that are consistent with International dietary guidelines.

To find out what foods carry the GI Symbol click here.

Health Stars Rating System: The Health Star Rating System (HSR) is a voluntary Australian Government front-of-pack labelling system that rates the overall nutritional profile of packaged food and assigns it a rating from ½ a star to 5 stars in ½ star increments. It provides a quick, easy, standard way to compare similar packaged foods. The more stars, the healthier the choice.

The rating is based on the nutrient profile of the food per 100g or mL. The HSR logo also gives information about some of the nutrients in the food, such as the energy (kJ), saturated fat, sugars and sodium and may include a positive nutrient such as protein, fibre or a vitamin or mineral. It is designed to complement the nutritional information panel (NIP)

The GI Symbol Compliments the HSR

Products that are part of the GI Symbol program have to meet strict nutrient criteria for energy (kJ), carbohydrate, saturated fat and sodium, and where appropriate, fibre and calcium. The criteria are consistent with International dietary guidelines and therefore all products in the program have a 3.5 star rating or higher.

The HSR does not incorporate total carbohydrate quantity or quality. The GI Symbol gives confidence to consumers that the quality of the carbohydrate has been taken into account.


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