Understanding Nutrition Labels


According to Dieticians of Canada, more than two thirds of Canadians read food labels to help them decide which foods to buy and eat. The Nutrition Facts table, Ingredient List and any optional nutritional claims are all listed and based on a certain amount of food.

On December 12, 2007 nutritional labelling became mandatory for all pre-packaged foods and Dieticians of Canada provides written briefs directly to the federal government’s Canadian Food Inspection Agency on key labelling policies.

Here’s the breakdown of what you see with nutrition labelling on the packages of your favourite foods:

The Nutrition Facts table

  • Serving size
  • Calories
  • % Daily Value (DV%)
  • 13 core ingredients: fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fibre, sugars, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron

Ingredient list

Lists ingredients in order of weight, the first ingredient weighing the most and going down from there. So, if you’re looking for a really good garlic spaghetti sauce, you buy the one that has garlic closer to the top of the list instead of being buried at the bottom.

Nutritional claims

These are optional and must follow Health Canada regulations. Examples of these are “cholesterol-free” or “reduced in calories”

Nutrition health and wellness writer Alyssa Simon says: “Reading food labels will make it much easier for you to compare foods and find the foods that have the nutritional value … It will help you and your family make healthy choices about the foods you are buying.”

So take an extra second next time you’re crossing items off your shopping list to read what’s actually in your food!