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Understanding Food Labels – Ingredient list & Nutrition Facts

Do you ever wonder what goes into making the foods you eat, and what it means to your health? You’re not alone! In a recent survey, about 70% of Canadians say that food labels are an important source of nutrition information.[1]  Indeed, food labels are the most reliable source of information on pre-packaged foods and drinks and give you valuable guidance to help you make healthy choices. Let’s have a closer look the key information on food labels.

Ingredient List

Consumers expect to know exactly what is in their food so they can make informed choices that are in line with their values and health needs. Ingredients are listed in order of weight, beginning with the ingredient that weighs the most and ending with the ingredient that weighs the least. This means that a food contains more of the ingredients found at the beginning of the list, and less of the ingredients at the end of the list.

If you have allergies to foods, one of the most important things you can do is check ingredients carefully every time before eating a food.[2] [3] This will help prevent reactions to your allergens. Food allergens, gluten and added sulphites must also be shown in the ingredient list in one of two ways: 1) declared in the list of ingredients or 2) in a “contains” statement at the end of the list of ingredients.[4] MadeGood Granola Minis and Bars are school safe and allergy friendly because they are made in a facility free from all 10 priority allergens identified by Health Canada: Peanuts, Tree nuts, Wheat, Eggs, Milk (Dairy), Sesame, Soy, Seafood (Fish, Crustaceans and Shellfish), Mustard and Sulphites. [5] .

Nutrition Facts Table[6]

The nutrition facts table can help you make informed food choices when grocery shopping. There are 13 core nutrients that must be listed in a nutrition facts table and many others are optional. On packaged foods the nutrition information is based on a serving size which is shown at the top of the Nutrition Facts table. You can discover the food’s nutritional value (amount of calories and nutrients) for the declared serving size by looking at the percent Daily Value (% DV) column.  % DV can be used as a simple ‘rule of thumb’ with 5% DV or less meaning a little, and 15% DV or more meaning a lot of a nutrient. Use the Nutrition Facts Table to compare 2 products to make informed food choices. [Dietitian’s Tip look for foods with: INCREASED Fibre and LESS Saturated fat, Sodium, Sugars].

MGCN-CrispySquares-Vanilla-Nutritional Panel-V2

Other information you may see on labels (ex Vegan, Kosher, GF, Organic etc.

Canada-Icons

Front of Package (FOP) labelling in the form of symbols, logos, and designs provide a simplified summary of the features of food products. Check out what’s behind MadeGood’s healthiness. [522] (list FOPs, link to blog page)

Lucia Weiler is a Registered Dietitian (Nutritionist) and Professional Home Economist with a passion for food, health and wellness. She is the President of Weiler Nutrition Communications Inc. a consulting practice that provides expert services in nutrition trends, education, food safety and labelling compliance.  Lucia is a pro at translating the science of nutrition into easy to understand, practical advice for Canadians. She is faculty at Humber College and Member of the Board of Directors for Dietitians of Canada. For more insightful nutrition tips visit www.weilernutrition.com or follow on Twitter/Instagram @LuciaWeilerRD

[1] Health Canada (2011)

[2] Food Allergy Canada, Understanding food labels.   http://foodallergycanada.ca/allergy-safety/food-labelling/

[3] Duyff, (2017) Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

[4] Canadian Food Inspection Agency (2016) List of Ingredients and Allergens.  http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/list-of-ingredients-and-allergens/eng/1383612857522/1383612932341?chap=2#s7c2

[5] Health Canada ( 2016) Food Allergies and Allergen Labelling – Information for Consumers http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/information-for-consumers/fact-sheets-and-infographics/food-allergies/eng/1332442914456/1332442980290

[6] Health Canada (2015) Nutrition facts tables. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/understanding-food-labels/nutrition-facts-tables.html#a3