Learn your labels and be a smarter shopper.
Marketing, media and nutritional claims on packages can be misleading. The nutritional label is your best tool to determine if a product is a healthy choice.
- Look at the serving size. Ask yourself: Is this my typical serving size? If not, make calculations accordingly. Use this number to compare products. Don’t assume similar products with different brand names use the same serving size. Use the weight, not volume when comparing products. For example: 1 cup of a flake-like cereal will weigh less than 1 cup of granola.
- The numbers after the nutrients measured in g or mg is the actual amount found in the food per serving. Refer to label above: 2 slices (64g) provides 140 calories, 1.5g fat, 3g fibre, etc. These numbers are not the best tool when looking at the nutritional value. It’s too difficult to memorize your target daily total for each nutrient. Use the %Daily Value.
- % Daily Value (%DV) allows you to quickly determine whether the item is high or low in a particular nutrient. It is based on a scale of 0%-100%. This is NOT the percentage of your daily needs as in this provides 12% of your daily sodium. Use this as a tool to determine if there is A LITTLE or A LOT of a particular nutrient per stated serving size. As a general rule: – 5% means its low in that particular nutrient. 15% means its high in that particular nutrient. (With the exception of fibre where 16% is considered high)
Aim LOW for: total fat, saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium.
Aim HIGH for: fibre, vitamins (A & C) and minerals (calcium & iron).
Nutrients on the Label
Calories are used for energy and come from fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Too many calories will result in weight gain, while limiting your intake will lead to weight loss.
Fat (also see Fat section) the amount and type of fat makes the difference. Limit overall intake but especially saturated and trans fat. Choose products with a total fat of around 5% and no more than 10% for saturated and trans fats.
Cholesterol only some individuals with high cholesterol are impacted by the cholesterol they eat, so it’s best to discuss this with your physician.
Sodium (also see Sodium section) the hidden salt in prepared and restaurant foods is the biggest culprit. If you have high blood pressure or are at risk, stick to products with a 5%DV per serving, otherwise don’t surpass 10%DV.
Carbohydrates (also see Diabetes section): the main fuel for your brain and muscles. Grains, fruits and dairy products all contain carbs and so do sweet treats. Enjoy carbohydrate rich foods spread throughout your day but careful of your serving size! Too much of those starchy and sugary foods often get people into trouble.
Protein: helps you feel full longer so incorporate a small amount at meals and snacks but careful not to overdo it because extra protein will get stored as fat. Main sources include: meat, fish, chicken, legumes, nuts & seeds, dairy products (ie. milk, cheese, yogurt).
Fibre (See Fibre section): Aim for 25-35g/day. Look for highest fibre breads, cereals, pastas and rice. Other good sources of fibre include fruit, vegetables and legumes (beans, peas and lentils).
Vitamins and minerals: play a role in all functions in the body. Calcium, iron, vitamin A & C are most important in bone and teeth maintenance and development, maintaining energy levels, blood cell counts, eyesight and help fight infection.