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Packaging may be pretty but it's what's on the back that counts for our health

What's in a label? The answer nutritionists and dieticians may give is your health, your waistband and your mortality.

A quarter of Irish people are obese, with 66pc of men and 51pc of women above the recommended weight -well ahead of the European average of 47.6pc.

One in four Irish girls and 16pc of Irish boys are either overweight or obese.

Feeding the obesity epidemic is a lack of knowledge about nutritional labels. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) study on consumer habits says only one in four adults read package labels, while 44pc never or seldom do. Motivation Weight Management consultant Aveen Bannon says consumers tend to ignore or misread labels.


Why? It may be they simply don't have the time. Or, information overload, brand loyalty and price focus affect their behaviour. Misinformation plays a part too, with people not interpreting the facts correctly.

Processed foods are the worst culprits as grocery shoppers find it hard to understand the ingredients in cereals, ready meals, drinks and snacks. Bannon has some tips for consumers in best understanding food labels. For portion control, check the serving size on packs as they can be misleading.

Read the ingredient list - the shorter the better, as it usually means less artificial additives. Think order: ingredients are listed in descending order, so if sugar or salt are at the top, alarm bells should ring. Stay savvy, don't just count calories, look at other qualities - like fibre, vitamins and minerals in fruit. Aim low with fat, saturated fat and salt. Aim high with fibre.