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Just by making a few simple changes to your shopping and eating habits you can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels for life.
By reading your food labels you will be able to choose the types of foods that are lowest in salt, fat and sugar. This will help you to rapidly cut down on salt, sugar and saturated fat.
Stop, look and list
It is the levels of salt, saturated fat and sugars that control our blood pressure and cholesterol levels. So, the less salt, saturated fat and sugars we eat, the lower our blood pressure and cholesterol levels will be.
To help you to choose the right foods, many foods now have red, amber and green ‘traffic lights’ on the front of their packaging. This is part of the Food Standards Agency ‘traffic lights’ system that lets you see at a glance whether a food is low, medium or high in fat, saturated fat, salt and added sugars.
By choosing foods that have as many green or amber lights as possible, you will be making sure that you eat foods that only have low or medium levels of salt, saturated fat and sugar.
Use the green light code
The food traffic lights are always listed in the same order on a food's label: fats, saturated fats, sugar and salt.
The lights also tell you the amounts of the ingredients in 100g or 100ml of the food or in a single serving (if a recommended serving is more than 100g or 100ml). The amount in a single serving or portion is particularly useful if the food is a ready meal or soft drink where you will be consuming much more than 100g or 100ml and it will make up a major part of your daily food intake.
- Green means ‘go for it’ or ‘eat freely’
- Amber means ‘okay most of the time’ or ‘eat in moderation’
- Red means ‘enjoy once in a while’ or ‘eat sparingly’.
So if a food has:
- a red light, it is something you should be trying to cut down on. There’s no need to avoid it entirely, but it should only be a treat, eaten in smaller amounts or eaten only occasionally
- an amber light is an okay choice most of the time, but you should try to go for foods with a green light for that ingredient some of the time
- a green light, it is low in that ingredient. The more green lights a food has, the healthier it is.
When you go shopping, you will be buying many foods, all with different mixes of green, amber and red lights. The best thing is to get the overall balance right by choosing as many greens and ambers as possible.
How the traffic lights work on food labels
Foods per 100g
Low – green
Medium – amber
High – red
|Fat||Less than 3g||3-20g||More than 20g|
|Saturated fat||Less than 1.5g||1.5-5g||More than 5g|
|Total sugar||Less than 5g||5-15g||More than 15g|
|Salt||Less than 0.3g||0.3-1.5g||More than 1.5g|