Learning how to read food labels can help you choose healthier food products in the market for your toddler and other family members.

 

4.3

Understanding Food Labels

Understanding food labels can help you choose the right type of food for your toddler.

  • Check out the nutrition claims on the front of the pack
Nutrition claims to look out for
“Source of Nutrient X”, “High in Nutrient X”

Examples: Source of vitamin C; high in calcium

This means that the product contains an amount of Nutrient X that meets the level required by food law.
“Low in Y”, “free of Y”

Examples: low in fat; free of cholesterol

This means that the product is low in or free of certain nutrient, meeting the level specified by the food law.
  • Look at the Nutrition Information Panel or NIP (usually found at the back of the pack).

    chart

  • Look at the amount of energy and other nutrients in the food. Consider how these nutrients contribute to the total daily intake and nutritional needs of your toddler.
  • Make food choices based on overall nutrient content, not merely on one or two nutrients.

 

Check Ingredients List

  • Ingredients present in the highest amount are listed first.
  • If you toddler has an allergy, check carefully to make sure there are no ingredients that would trigger an allergic reaction.
  • There are other different forms of sugar, fat, oils, and salt on food labels.

 

Nutrient Other forms
Sugar Brown sugar, cane sugar, condensed milk, corn syrup, fructose, glucose, honey, maltodextrin, maltose, palm sugar, saccharose, sucrose, syrup, xylose, white sugar
Fat and oils Butter, cream, cocoa butter, coconut milk (santan), ghee, lard, margarine, mayonnaise, milk solids, shortening
Salt Rock salt, sea salt, sodium, soy sauce

How to Choose Healthier Products

  • Compare the Nutritional Information Panel (NIP) of different brands of a food product and choose the one with lower/lowest amount of fat, sugar and salt, and higher/highest in fibre. Find the brand that best meets your toddler’s nutritional needs. Compare different brands based on every 100ml/100mg of the product.
  • Look at the nutrition claims of each product. While such information may be useful in describing the nutritional content, do not purchase it just because it has a “high in” or “free of” claim. You will need to look at the whole nutrient profile based on the NIP
  • For each claim such as free or low in fat, sugar and sodium, the food law has a stipulated requirement. Each product must meet that requirement to make that claim.

 

<Insert video “How to read food labels”>

 

 

For further information on infant and child nutrition, please refer to

  1. MINISTRY OF HEALTH MALAYSIA (2013) Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents. Putrajaya: Technical Working Group on Nutritional Guidelines (for National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition).
  2. NUTRITION SOCIETY OF MALAYSIA (2011) Healthy Spoonfuls for Toddlers. Petaling Jaya: Mother’s Smart Choice.