As a nurse, I, unfortunately, have first-hand knowledge of the variety of consequences related to a lifetime of eating the wrong types of food. Conditions like obesity, tooth decay, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes and even some cancers have been traced to poor nutrition.
I like to think my family and I eat a relatively healthy diet. We have fruits and vegetables daily, try to eat a high fibre diet and limit treats.
Prior to purchasing a product for the first time, I regularly check the Nutrition Facts table (NFt) on the packaging and glance through the ingredients so I know what our family is eating. But is that enough? Do I know how to accurately read the NFt? Do you?
The NFt is simple to use and an invaluable tool in our quest for a healthier diet. It can help you easily make informed food choices when grocery shopping and also when preparing food at home.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN A NUTRITION FACTS TABLE?
A nutrition facts table gives you information on:
- serving size
- % DV
It also gives you information on the 13 core nutrients:
- saturated and trans fats
- vitamin A
- vitamin C
Almost all pre-packaged foods have a Nutrition Facts table. It looks the same on most foods. This makes it easy to find and easy to read.
Not all foods need to have a Nutrition Facts table. These foods are not required to have a Nutrition Facts table:
- Fresh vegetables and fruits
- Raw meat and poultry (except when it is ground)
- Raw fish and seafood
- Foods prepared or processed at the store (bakery items, salads, etc)
- Foods that contain very few nutrients such as coffee, tea, herbs and spices
- Alcoholic beverages
HOW TO USE A NUTRITION FACTS TABLE
It may seem a bit complicated and involved to use, but honestly, it’s not.
There are just three easy steps:
Start with the Serving Size –
- Serving size can be found at the top of the nutrition facts table under the header “Nutrition Facts”.
- Information in the Nutrition Facts table is based on this quantity of food.
- Check to see if the Serving Sizes are similar when comparing packaged foods.
- You can also use a nutrition facts table to compare the serving size to the amount of food you actually eat.
- For example, the serving size of bread in a nutrition facts table could be 1 slice. But if you eat 2 slices, you need to double the amount of calories and nutrients.
Look at Percent Daily Value (% DV) on the right side of the NFt –
- Use % DV to see if a Serving Size has a little or a lot of nutrients.
- 5% DV or less is a little
- 15% DV or more is a lot
- Choose packaged food that has more of the nutrients you want, like fibre and calcium and less of those you don’t want, like trans fats and sodium.
- Use can also use % DV to compare packaged food.
Determine if this food is a nutritious choice –
Use the % DV to see if the Serving Size has a little or a lot of a nutrient so you can make a better choice for you and your family. Remember, 5% DV or less is a little and 15% or more is a lot.
In this photo, I am looking at the Nutrition Facts table to see if this product is a nutritious choice for our family.
Remember, you can use the Nutrition Facts table to:
- Choose products more easily.
- Compare two products to make better food choices for you and your family.
- Learn about the nutrition information of the foods you eat.
- Better manage special diets.
- Increase or decrease your intake of any nutrient.
I love using the Nutrition Facts table as it gives me information on the 13 core nutrients and calories in an amount of food. I can then use this information and the % Daily Value (% DV) to choose and compare food products and make healthier choices.
But, we’re human and it’s okay to have the occasional treat, we just can’t make treats a part of our everyday diets.
To learn more about the Nutrition Facts Education Campaign: “Focus on the Facts” and to keep up to date with all that is happening, be sure to visit Government of Canada – Nutrition Facts.