Author: Nara Demie
We often see claims such as “zero trans fat” and “reduced in calories” on the front of food packages highlighting a product’s nutrition features. They are a quick and easy way to get information about a food, but these eye-catching statements do not tell the whole story. For example, a food free of trans fat may still be high in Calories. Be sure to also read the Nutrition Facts table to determine what a claim is really telling you.
Furthermore, the word “light” on a food label can mean different things. This claim is used to describe a food as “reduced in fat” and “reduced in calories”, but not always. Sometimes the word “light” describes the taste, colour or texture of a food. Manufacturers must describe what is “light” about the food. Manufacturers can only use a nutrition claim if their product meets certain criteria. Here are some other definitions for claims that may come in handy:Â “Low” is always associated with a very small amount. “Low in fat” means the food contains no more than 3g (grams) of fat in the amount of food specified in the Nutrition Facts.
“Reduced in calories” means the food contains at least 25% less energy than the food to which it is compared.Â “Source of fibre” means the food contains at least 2g of dietary fibre in the amount of food listed under the Nutrition Facts. A food with the claim ‘High source of fibre’ contains at least 4g in that amount of food. It is recommended that most to consume about 25g or more of fibre per day.Â “Less” is used to compare one product with another. For example, a box of crackers claiming to contain “50% less salt” will have half the sodium of the food to which it’s compared. It doesn’t necessarily mean the product is low in sodium, so check the sodium content in the Nutrition Facts.Â Â While claims are a good starting point, you need to check the Nutrition Facts to get the details.
The Nutrition Facts Table - What’s in it for You?Â Have you ever wondered about the nutrition value of your favourite breakfast cereal? Does it have the dietary fibre you need? Is it high or low in sodium or saturated fat?Â The Nutrition Facts table, which you see on almost all pre-packaged foods, makes it easier to answer questions you may have about what is in the foods you buy. In the Nutrition Facts you will find the number of Calories and the amounts of 13 nutrients contained in a specific amount of the food. These nutrients will be expressed in grams (g) or milligrams (mg) or as a % Daily Value.Â Â The Daily Values are based on recommendations for a healthy diet. The % Daily Value makes comparing foods easier because it puts all nutrients on the same scale (0% – 100% Daily Value), much like a ruler. For example, a food that has a % Daily Value of 5% or less for fat, sodium or cholesterol would be low in these nutrients. A food that has a % Daily Value of 15% or more for calcium, vitamin A or fibre would be high in these nutrients.Â Â In general, you should look for a higher % Daily Value next to nutrients you are trying to increase in your diet, such as fibre, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron. Look for a lower % Daily Value for nutrients you are trying to decrease, such as saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium.Â Â Also remember to compare the specific amount of food listed at the top of the Nutrition Facts to the amount that you eat. If you eat double the amount listed, don’t forget to double the values for Calories and nutrients.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Nutrition Labelling – It’s the Amount That CountsÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Food labels are valuable sources of information. A Nutrition Facts table is found on almost all food labels and it can tell you a lot about the food you buy. Reading food labels can help you make informed food choices, but there are important tips to keep in mind.Â Â The nutrient information in the Nutrition Facts is always based on a specific ‘amount’ of food measured in household units – such as a cup of milk, or a slice of bread – followed by the metric measurement (g, mL). The amount reflects the quantity people usually eat at one sitting. The key however, is comparing the amount in the Nutrition Facts to the amount you actually eat. -Why? A favourite bowl you use at breakfast might hold anywhere from a Â½ cup to a 2 Â½ cup amount of cereal. Having 2 Â½ cups of a particular cereal may be five times the amount specified in the Nutrition Facts. If the cereal box label indicates a Â½ cup amount is 120 Calories, this means that, instead of consuming 120 Calories, you have just consumed a 600 Calorie bowl of cereal.Â Â More tips for using the Nutrition Facts:Â Remember – the amount of food in the Nutrition Facts is not a recommended serving. Canada’s Food Guide recommends the amount and type of food needed for different age and gender groups, as well as different stages of life.Â Â Â Nutrition Facts on different brands of the same type of food may be based on different amounts of food. For example, one brand of crackers may have nutrition information based on eight crackers, while another brand’s is based on only four crackers. So check the metric amount under the Nutrition Facts when comparing products.Â Â Â Not all foods are sold ‘ready to eat’. Foods that require preparation, such as cake mix baked with an egg, or breakfast cereal served with milk, will have one column in Nutrition Facts providing nutrient values for the food as sold, while another column will provide nutrient values for the food “as prepared,” with the extra egg or milk, for example.