[guest post + recipe by Zoe Bingley-Pullin]

According to the latest research, the large majority of Australians (70%) worry about hidden ingredients in the food*1 they buy.

The study by Vitasoy, one of Australia’s leading dairy- milk replacement manufacturers, reveals that almost half (49%) of those surveyed would actually avoid buying food if we knew the ingredients had been genetically modified1. And when they discovered that some of the foods they buy locally might contain genetically modified ingredients, four in five (80%) of those surveyed expressed concern*1.

The report also revealed that the large majority (83%) of consumers would like to know where their food originates*1, with 85% of Australians preferring to buy food that is home grown1.

It’s clear from these results that consumers want to know what’s in the food they’re buying and where the ingredients originate. Manufacturers need be more transparent with their labelling, especially as there appears to be a startling gap between knowledge and reality when it comes to consumer understanding of ingredients.

Take soymilk for example. Almost two thirds (63%) of Australians believe soymilk is made from whole soybeans1 when in fact more than half of the soymilks sold in Australia are made from soy isolate powder*2, which the vast majority of Australians (88%) have never heard of *1.

Soy isolate powder is highly processed and often sourced from overseas. Australia has stringent GM-free requirements, so that’s why I always advise my clients to buy brands made from locally grown sources.

Vitasoy is always a good choice: made from Australian grown, whole soybeans, so it doesn’t include any genetically modified ingredients.

What should you look for when reading labels?

1. Best before: Check this date for food’s freshness.

2. Ingredients: The product’s content appears in descending order from the main ingredient, then the second largest and so on. You’ll be able to see what percentage the product’s characterizing ingredients constitute – so if you’re buying peanut butter, you’ll know how much of the spread is actually peanuts. Similarly, with yoghurt and jams you’ll be able to tell from the label how much real fruit you’re getting. You’ll also notice that if the product contains oil, the manufacturer has to specify which type – in this case, peanut oil. If you see hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats/oils on the label, it means that there are Trans-Fatty Acids in the product.

3. Nutrition panel: The top section spells out the serving size of the food. Remember that if you double this, you’ll double the calorie and fat count, too. The nutrients are listed to show the amount per serve and per 100g (or 100ml if liquid). I always use the ‘per 100g’ information to compare similar products. The nutrition panel can also help you work out your total nutrient intake for the day and, for example, check if you’re getting enough protein.

4. Protein: You need to have 1g of protein for every kg of body weight. For example 67kg equals 67g of protein per day.

5. Carbohydrates: You need to refer to the sugars column, which tells you how much sugar is in the product. When you’re looking at this column there should never be more than 10g of sugar per 100g serving of added sugar.

6. Fat: Besides spelling out the total fat in a particular product, the nutrition panel will also tell you how much of it is saturated fat – ‘bad’ fat. The top figure is the total figure and the second figure tells you how much of it is the ‘bad’ kind. For example, peanut butter is high in fat but most of it is good fat. If a product is “low fat” it should have less than 2g fat and I wouldn’t recommend eating a product with more than around 4g of saturated fat.

7. Sodium: More isn’t better when it comes to sodium. Your body only needs 2,300mg of sodium (one teaspoon) a day. As many products contain too much, it makes sense to check the label. As a guideline: less than 120mg of sodium per 100g of product is a low sodium content; more than 400mg of sodium per 100g is high; and anything above 1,000mg per 100g is very high.


Banana Sesame smoothie:

banana smoothie



1½ cups. Vitasoy Original

½ a ripe banana

1 tbsp. tahini

A handful of ice cubes

1 tsp. sesame seeds


Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend till smooth.

Pour into glasses and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

* * *

Zoe Bingley-Pullin, celebrity nutritionist, chef, co-host of Good Chef Bad Chef (Channel Ten) and is the owner of Nutritional Edge, a Sydney-based health consultancy business. Her philosophy is all about eating for a better lifestyle. It’s about enjoying food, being educated about food, and truly understanding how it can increase your health, happiness and performance in all aspects of life. For more on Zoe check out her website: http://www.nutritionaledge.com.au/

Zoe Bingley-Pullin