The most important part of the food label is the ingredients list. What the product is made from is far more important than the nutritional panel and any nutritional claims. Look for products which contain real foods and steer clear from those which contain numbers or long names which look like chemically engineered substances.

Ingredients are listed on the package in decreasing order by weight. This means that the first ingredient listed is the major ingredient.

Beware of hidden names for sugar

Anything ending in “ose” means sugar! Sucrose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, glucose, lactose etc.

Other products which contain sugar include:

  • Brown sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Disaccharide
  • Golden syrup
  • Honey
  • Malt
  • Mannitol
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Monosaccharides
  • Raw sugar
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

Nutritional claims

There are many labelling tricks and traps which are highly misleading. Here are a few to watch out for:

  • Lite or light: this does not necessarily refer to the fat content or energy of the food. It may mean the food is lite in colour, texture or taste.
  • No added sugar: this means the product has no ‘added’ sugar but may still be high in sugar.
  • No added salt: this means the product has no ‘added’ salt but may still be high in salt.
  • Low joule or diet: this food is either low in sugar and/or fat, but it may be artificially sweetened.

Glycemic Index

Glycemic Index (GI) is a ranking given to foods to describe how quickly they raise the glucose level of the blood. Our body uses glucose to produce energy.

A high GI food is one which is quickly digested and absorbed by the body. A low GI food is one which is slowly digested and absorbed by the body.

Low GI (0- 55) – oats, apples, yoghurt, quinoa, asparagus, brocolli, cashews.
Moderate GI (56-69) – apricots, pineapple, banana, brown rice.
High GI (70-100) – potatoes, white bread, short grain white rice, breakfast cereal, biscuits, lollies, sports drinks, watermelon, dates.

Benefits of your child eating low GI foods

The benefits of low GI food for a child with Autism or ADHD should not be overlooked. Low GI foods can play a significant role in determining your child’s mood and behaviour. Benefits include:

  • Longer lasting glucose to fuel the brain and body
    improved cognitive function and ability to concentrate
  • Enhanced mood
    reduced irritability
    improved energy levels

Compound ingredients

A compound ingredient is made up of two or more foods. Compound ingredients (including food additives) are not legally required to be listed on the packet if the compound ingredient makes up less than 5% of the final food.


A product is organic if there have been no synthetic chemicals or genetically modified components used during the farming of the product. Some products claim to be “organic”, but the product may combine organic and non-organic products. You can only be certain a product is organic if it has the certified label on the package.

Fortified food

Fortification is the addition of vitamins and minerals to foods. Products are typically fortified with synthetic, chemically engineered vitamins and minerals, as the naturally occurring micronutrients have been destroyed through processing and refinement.

Natural flavour

The term “natural flavour” is very deceiving. The truth is, both “artificial” and “natural” flavours can be created with man-made chemicals, however the difference is that the natural flavour has been originally derived from a natural source. Despite whether a product is purely synthetic or claims to have “natural flavouring”, there may be hundreds of chemicals making up a flavour.

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