If you are a shopper looking for healthier food choices, all you have to do is to look out for the Healthier Choice Symbol. Today, about 3500 different food products, spanning across 100 food categories such as convenience meals, sauces, beverages, snacks and breakfast cereals, have qualified for the HCS.
Look out for the Healthier Choice Symbol
Using the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) to guide your grocery purchases is one way to incorporate healthier options into your diet. Products with the symbol are in general lower in fat, saturated fat, sodium, sugar and higher in dietary fiber, calcium and wholegrains. To make nutrition labelling more comprehensive, HPB introduced the enhanced versions of the Healthier Choice Symbol, each of which focuses on a particular nutritional aspect of the product.
The Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) is awarded to food products which meet HPB’s HCS nutritional criteria. These criteria differ with food categories, are science-based and where possible, bench-marked against other countries implementing similar guidelines. For each criterion, HPB also engages key manufacturers to assess the technical feasibility of these guidelines.
You can view the HCS guideline here and the list of HCS products here.
What do these Healthier Choice Symbols mean?
There are a total of six nutrient specific claims under the original. Each product will carry one of the six variants. Some products may carry two claims appropriate to the product should it satisfy the nutritional guidelines.
Higher in Wholegrains
Products carrying this symbol contain at least 20% more wholegrains compared to similar products from the same food category.
The benefits of wholegrains go beyond its fibre content. Wholegrains are also important sources of antioxidants like vitamin E, selenium and phytochemicals. These food components work together to help lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Wholegrains may also play a role in weight management.
Foods carrying this symbol include brown (or unpolished) rice, brown rice vermicelli (bee hoon), wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholemeal breads, wholegrain pasta and wholegrain cereal beverages.
Higher in Calcium
Products carrying this symbol contain at least 25% more calcium compared to similar products.
Calcium helps support the development of strong bones and teeth. A healthy diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D, with regular exercise, helps to achieve strong bones and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Foods carrying this symbol include calcium-fortified soy products, milk and milk products.
Lower in Sugar
Products carrying this symbol contain at least 25% less sugar compared to regular sweetened beverages or products from the same food category.
Added sugars in food provide empty calories with little nutritional value. Excessive consumption of foods high in added sugars can contribute considerably to energy intake. Excess energy intake if not expended through physical activity can lead to weight gain and obesity. Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes coronary heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
Foods carrying this symbol include Asian drinks, sweetened drinks, cultured milk products, juice drinks and dried fruits.
Lower in Sodium
Products carrying this symbol contain at least 25% less sodium compared to similar products.
Excessive sodium intake increases blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke and kidney disease. Evidence suggests that sodium intake of less than 2000mg of sodium per day is beneficial in reducing blood pressure.
Foods carrying this symbol include sauces, recipe mixes and paste, canned and processed meats, processed seafood-based foods, dried legumes, nuts and seeds.
Lower in Saturated Fats
Products carrying this symbol contain at least 25% less saturated fat compared to similar products.
Saturated fats tends to raise total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). High levels of LDL increases the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
Foods carrying this symbol include dairy products, edible oils, fat spreads, convenience meals and 3-in-1 beverages.
Products carrying this symbol contain no or negligible amounts of trans fat i.e. less than 0.5g per 100g of the product.
Trans fat like saturated fat, increases the risk of heart disease. It not only increases the LDL levels, but also decreases the level of good cholesterol (High-density lipoprotein) in the blood.
Foods carrying this symbol include margarines, edible oils, biscuits and cookies, cakes, breads and rolls.
Eating in moderation
Healthier Choice Symbol products are healthier than those without the symbol as they contain less sodium, saturated fat, sugar and, or free of trans fat, or higher in calcium, dietary fibre and wholegrains. Though these HCS labelled foods are healthier than those in the similar food groups, all foods that are consumed in excessive amount can cause weight gain. Hence, even when eating foods with the HCS, remember to consume in moderation.
- Choose foods with the Healthier Choice Symbols. Look out for the six new Healthier Choice Symbols to help you make more informed dietary choices.
- Ensure that you eat all foods in moderation.