Nutrition labels are a useful tool to help you make smart choices for yourself and those around you.
Reading nutrition labels is important for teachers, early childhood educators and parents.
This information is useful for lessons about nutrition and wellness in high school. It is also useful for parents when grocery shopping or educators when planning meals in their centres.
But knowing how to do this can be challenging. There are ways to cut through the clutter, so labels are less overwhelming. This article will outline three main places to look when you are reading a label.
Nutrition and Health Claims
Some packaged foods have Nutrition and Health Claims that provide information at a quick glance.
These claims describe:
- The amount of a nutrient such as “high fibre,” “excellent source of calcium” or “low sodium.”
- The positive effects of food on your health, for example “a healthy diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D, and regular physical activity, help to achieve strong bones and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.”
These claims are a good starting point, but they do not tell you everything. Check the Nutrition Facts table to get the full story about the food.
Nutrition Facts Table
The Nutrition Facts Table is mandatory on most packaged foods. It is where you will find the most information about a product.
- Look at the serving size. Information in the Nutrition Facts table refers to that amount of food.
- Compare the serving size to the amount of food you eat. You will need to do a little math if you eat more or less than that amount. Let’s use bread as an example. The serving size is two slices, but you only eat one slice. You will need to divide all numbers in the table by two.
Step 2 – Check the % Daily Value (% DV). This shows you if there is a little or a lot of a nutrient in the food.
5% DV or less is a little, while 15% DV or more is a lot.
Let’s use milk as an example. You will see that both calcium and vitamin D are more than 15% Daily Value. This means that milk has a lot of these two important nutrients.
Ingredients are in order from most to least. Ideally, you want to see some ingredients near the top of the list, such as whole grains. Others are better to see lower down the list, like sugar or sodium.
Interested in learning more? Visit Understanding a Food Label - Food Labelling in Canada
- Government of Canada: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/healthy-eating-recommendations/using-food-labels/. Accessed February 2022.
- Government of Canada: Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Food Label Requirements. https://inspection.canada.ca/food-label-requirements/labelling/consumers/understanding-a-food-label/eng/1400530265966/1400530332584. Accessed February 2022.