Eat well, Move more, Live longer

Understanding food labels

If you’re not sure how much of a food to eat, have a look at the food label. Food labels appear on all packaged foods and drinks.

Look out for the red, amber and green on food labels

Some food labels use red, amber and green colour coding which makes it easier to choose food that is lower in total fat, saturated fat, and sugar and salt. Choose more ’greens’ and ’ambers’ and fewer 'reds'.

Read more about food labelling on NHS Choices

Total fat, saturated fat, and sugar and salt - high or low?

Total fat

  • High: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
  • Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g

Saturated fat

  • High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g
  • Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g


  • High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
  • Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g

Salt and sodium

Salt is also called sodium chloride. Sometimes, food labels only give the figure for sodium. But there's a simple way to work out how much salt you're eating from the sodium figure: salt = sodium x 2.5.

  • High: more than 1.5g salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
  • Low: 0.3g salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)

Reference intakes

Remember to look at the Reference intake information on the label as well, which will appear as a percentage (%). This will tell you what a food or drink contributes to your daily diet. Reference intakes are guidelines about the approximate amount of particular nutrients and energy required for a healthy diet. Because everyone is different, RIs aren’t targets, but they do give a useful indication of how a particular nutrient or amount of energy fits into your daily diet.

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