Being able to read a food label will help you identify what nutrients are in foods, and hence work out if and when the food item is appropriate for your weekly food menu. This is a good exercise to include if you are conducting a shopping tour. There is information below about what to include in the education session, and a downloadable worksheet to use when analyzing a food packaging.
Food Label Education
Label reading is such an important part of nutrition education (see Label Reading 101). It is the key to increasing a person’s knowledge in the area, so they can make informed decisions themselves, without having to continually ask ‘is this OK for me?’.
What you include in a food label reading education session will depend on the athlete group you are speaking to, however, covering the basics of what is included on the packaging of food labels is key. The following are basics to include in an information session about label reading:
- The Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) which lists all nutrients and their quantities. The nutrients listed will depend on what is in the food.
- The Ingredients List, which is a list of all ingredients that are in the food, in order of quantity, most to least.
- The Health Star Rating is a quick and easy way to compare the nutritional profile of similar packaged foods. It is not mandatory but can be very useful.
- Food claims, which highlight something about the food that would be appealing to consumers, but is often not scientifically based.
Free Worksheet for a Food Label Exercise
We have created a printable food label exercise sheet to use with your education session. The file is a pdf which you can print out as many times as you like.
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After completing the questions on the worksheet, you can discuss each one, and give further nutrition detail around each topic. This is an exercise that I have done with student groups and with athletes. You can provide them with some specific foods to analyze, or send them off into a supermarket to find any foods in a certain food group, and answer the questions on the sheet.
- Food Label Reading 101
- How to conduct a shopping tour for athletes
- More Resources for Sports Dietitians
- Athlete Recipes
- Sports nutrition home