Nutrition labels can be a great tool for helping you make food choices that align with your health goals. But it can feel overwhelming trying to compare everything (especially while we are still in the transition period between the old to new label formats). Here are some basic steps to being a label reading connoisseur the next time you are grocery shopping.
Start with Serving Size
Information on the Nutrition Facts table is based on a specific amount of food (also known as Serving Size). Compare the listed serving size to the amount you are going to eat!
If the serving size listed is "Per 1 cup", and you usually eat 2 cups, you would need to multiply all of the information in the Nutrition Facts table by 2.
Instead of providing 110 calories, a 2 cup serving would provide 220 calories ( 110 calories x 2 = 220 calories ).
Use the % Daily Value
% Daily Value (% DV) helps you determine if a food has a little or a lot of a nutrient - this is a great tool to use when comparing two different products!
5 % or less is A LITTLE
15 % or more is A LOT
Look for foods with less:
Saturated and Trans Fat
Look for % Daily Value of LESS THAN 5%. For heart-healthy eating, choose foods with less Saturated + Trans Fat.
Look for % Daily Value LESS THAN 5%. Health Canada recommends a sodium intake of ~1500 - 2300 mg/d for most adults. Reducing sodium intake helps with management of blood pressure, which helps to reduce the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease (heart disease), and kidney disease.
Look for foods with more:
Look for foods with AT LEAST 2g of fibre per serving. Eating more fibre can be helpful for bowel regularity, improving blood sugar management, improving cholesterol, and has been associated with reduced risk of cancer.
Sugar versus carbohydrates on the Nutrition Facts table
If you are looking to figure out which food choice would be a more blood sugar friendly choice, it’s important to look at available carbohydrate content versus just sugars alone.
The amount of carbohydrates listed in the Nutrition Facts table include fibre, starch and sugars. Keep in mind that fibre is a type of carbohydrate that does not break down into glucose (sugar).
To figure out the amount of carbohydrate that will affect your blood sugar, calculate Available Carbohydrate (net carbs):
Available Carbohydrate = Carbohydrate - Fibre
Sodium in Canada. Health Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/sodium.html. Accessed July 20, 2021.
Food Labelling Changes. Health Canada.
https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-labelling-changes.html. Accessed July 20, 2021.
Carbohydrates. Health Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/nutrients/carbohydrates.html. Accessed July 20, 2021.