All prepackaged foods must display a Nutrition Facts table (with the exception of spices, bottled water and alcoholic beverages). Consistent labeling on food products helps consumers make informed decisions about the foods they eat. Knowing how to read the new label is one of the first steps in helping you make healthier choices for you and your family. Here are some pointers:
- Serving Size: The serving size is given in both household measures (e.g. cups) and in grams (g), or milliliters (mL). All nutrition information on the label relates to the serving size.
- Calories Per Serving: This is the total number of calories in one serving of food.
- Amount Per Serving: Measured in grams (g) or milligrams (mg), this amount shows how much of each nutrient a serving of food contains.
- Nutrients: The old label required listing only calories and three nutrients: carbohydrate, fat and protein. The new label now lists 13 nutrients: the original four; fibre; sugars; vitamins A and C; and the minerals calcium, iron and sodium. Information on fat has been expanded to include saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fatty acids.
- % Daily Value: This gives an idea of a food's nutrient contribution to a healthy diet. This number can be used to measure whether a product is high or low in a nutrient. This allows consumers to make choices based on whether they need more or less of a specific nutrient.
- Ingredients, Nutrient Content Claims and Health Claims: All of these offer information to use when choosing foods for healthy eating plans.
Make Use of the Information
Depending on your nutrition and health goals, some parts of the label may be particularly useful. Here are a few ways it can help you make smart food choices:
- Calorie check: Calories count - especially when you are working towards a healthy weight.
- Check out the serving size: The amount of calories and nutrients listed on the label refer to this serving size. If you eat more or less of a food, adjust accordingly. The serving size is only a recommendation and may be more or less than what is appropriate for your healthy living goals.
- Read the ingredient list: It can help with food choices - especially if you have food sensitivities or allergies and want to know if specific ingredients are in a product.
- Compare products: The food label can help you choose the product that's best for you.