Is food packaging affecting your health?

Marketing used by supermarkets and the packaging that processed food comes in can have a massive effect on our food choices.  Have you noticed that staple items like milk and meat are at the back of the supermarket, meaning you have to walk past lots of other food items first.  And anything on special (like half price cartons of soft drink or reduced price chocolate bars) are at the front of the aisles or near the check outs, making it easier to see and grab at the last minute.  And if you have your children with you it’s even harder to bypass all of those colourful boxes that seem to draw children in, triggering them to want one… “Please can we get this Mum”… “I really want this one!”… insert full blown face-down-kicking-and-screaming-on-the-floor tantrum when told “No!” only to then give in just to get them to stop with the embarrassing tanty.  Ploys such as these are designed to entice us (and our kiddies) and encourage impulse buying.  Who doesn’t like to feel like they are getting a bargain.  Those clever marketers!

However the Australian Food and Grocery Council introduced food info labels into their Code of Practice so that it is easier for consumers to gauge the actual energy intake they will be getting when consuming their chosen food product.  Counting kilojoules isn’t for everyone however I understand that this is the best way for some people when it comes to slimming down or keeping weight off and as a society that has an ever increasing obesity issue, especially in children, I believe it’s important to be aware of how much energy we are consuming.  The amount of energy that goes in + the amount of energy expended will determine whether you are losing, maintaining or putting on weight.

We have all most likely seen the labels I am referring to but do you actually know how to read them?  Here is a little explanation  that will help you to understand what the quick glance information means:

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The protein, fats and carbohydrates we consume are converted by the body into energy, however each type provides differing amounts.  The below table breaks down how many kilojoules you will get from 1 gram of each type of food.  Note that alcohol is the second highest provider of energy, so unless you’re planning on burning off that energy on the dance floor then from a kilojoule point of view less is best.


1 gram of protein = 17 kJ

1 gram of fat = 37 kJ

1 gram of carbohydrates = 17 kJ

1 gram of dietary fibre = 8 kJ

1 gram of alcohol = 29 kJ

An effective way to avoid impulse buying of pre-packaged food that you don’t need and/or won’t provide your body with any nutrition is simple – write a list before leaving home and only buy what is on that list.  You will save yourself time, money and your waist measurement!

As we head into the new year and many of us are making resolutions and goals, if one of them is to lose weight then keep this info in mind.  If you find yourself hungry in the supermarket whilst quickly ducking in to pick something up for dinner and that chocolate bar is ever so tempting to tide you over, take a glance at the food info label on the front and let it be a reminder to you of what you’re actually giving your body (nutrient-deficient crap), what your body will do with it (convert it into a bucket load of extra energy) and whether or not it fits in with your goals (lose weight, eat healthier etc).  This isn’t to say that you won’t still be hungry (your brain is signalling your body that it needs glucose for energy), however grab a banana or a some nuts to snack on until you get home for dinner.

You will feel (and look) better for it!

Happy New Year!

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