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Understanding Nutritional Labels

Understanding Nutritional Labels

Do you ever take time to read the nutritional label on food products?  Do you understand what all the information on the food packaging means?

Nutritional labels became mandatory for all prepackaged foods in Canada in December, 2007 and required that of these products provide information on calories, 13 core nutrients and % of daily value on nutrients.  As well, specific references to allergens that are in the food are also now required to be reported.

Products can also make nutrition content claims and health claims.  A nutrition content claim references a specific nutrient in a food (for example – high in iron) and a health claim is a statement that a product can claim will be healthy for a person’s diet (for example – low in sodium).  You still need to be careful though as these claims may only highlight one component of the food so you should still refer to the nutritional label for the full product details.

Also, there are some foods that make what are referred to as general health claims (ie “healthy for you”).  These claims are not developed by the government and even though these claims need to be based on fact, you should always refer to the nutritional label for further reference and support of the claim.

Health Canada has published an outline on how to read and understand a nutrition facts table and provides some guidelines on how to interpret what the table means in order to help you make smart food choices. They have also provided more information about what the Percent Daily Value means and how to understand this component of the nutritional label.

For some additional resources, Quaker Oats has produced an interactive guide on how to understand and interpret the nutritional food label and the following short video clip provides a high level overview of what to look for on a nutritional label;

Hopefully by increasing your own knowledge about what nutritional value the food that you are eating has, you will now be able to make more informed and better food choices.

Here’s to your good health!

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