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Decoding Food Labels

Decoding Food LabelsKnowing about what you eat is an important part of looking after your health and wellbeing. Food labels carry information such as the nutrition facts table, ingredient list, allergens, country of origin, and advisory statements if there is an ingredient that may pose a potential health risk for certain people. It is good to remember that some of the healthiest food may not have a label, such as fruit, vegetables and fresh meat.

You can use the Nutrition Facts to:

  • Compare products more easily
  • Find out the nutritional value of foods
  • Better manage special diets, such as one that is low in sodium
  • Increase or decrease your intake of a particular nutrient

How Do I Read the Ingredient List?

Ingredients are listed in order from highest to lowest by weight. For example, if milk is the first ingredient listed, it is the main ingredient. Being aware of this will help you make healthier choices. Decoding Food Labels

What’s on the Label?

The main part of a food label is the Nutrition Facts Table, which includes the following information: Calories and 13 Nutrients: Total fat, Saturated fat, Trans fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Carbohydrate, Fibre, Sugars, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron. The label focuses on nutrients that you should be aware of. They may be ones that should be “watched out for???, such as saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. The nutrition facts table also points out nutrients that you should make sure you get enough of, such as calcium, vitamin C and fibre.

What’s not on the Label?

The Nutrition Facts Table does not list every type of vitamin and mineral, nor does it list the amount of unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fat can be calculated from taking the total amount of saturated fat plus trans fat, and subtracting it from the total fat. Choosing unsaturated fats more often than saturated and trans fat will help you stay healthy. Decoding Food Labels

Five Easy Steps to Help You Read the Label

Step 1: Look at the serving size

Compare the serving size on the package to the amount that you eat. If you eat the serving size shown on the Nutrition Facts Table you will get the amount of calories and nutrients that are listed.

Step 2: Look at the calories

Calories tell you how much energy you get from one serving of a packaged food.

Step 3: Look at the % Daily Value

The % Daily % allows a quick and easy evaluation of a food’s nutritional value. It reflects how much a specific nutrient a food contains relative to a Daily Value. It allows you to see whether there is a lot or little of a nutrient in the stated serving amount so you can adjust food selections accordingly.

Step 4: Try to get more of these nutrients

Fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Iron, Calcium

Step 5 : Try to get less of these nutrients

Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, and Sodium Ref: Eat Right Ontario website, 2007, Health Canada; Nutrition Labelling… Get the Facts! Website, 2009.