Food labels have lots of information that will help you make good choices when buying packaged store-bought foods.
Tips on food label reading
Choosing healthy packaged food can be challenging. There are always new foods coming into stores, so it is important to be able to make sense of the labels on food packages.
Read the "Ingredient List"
The Ingredient List gives information on ingredients in order, by weight. This means that the first ingredient listed is what weighs the most in the product.
Ingredients to avoid!
Generally, it’s a good idea to avoid foods that have sugar or fat as the first ingredient.
There are many different kinds of sugar, including: Sucrose, Glucose, Fructose, Glucose-fructose, Dextrose and Corn Syrup.
There are also many different types of fat. Saturated and trans fats are not healthy. Here are some types of saturated and trans fats that you may see in the Ingredient List: Hydrogenated, Partially Hydrogenated and Modified fats and oils, Shortening, Lard, Coconut or Coconut oil, Palm or Palm Kernel oil, Cocoa Butter, Butter.
Names to go for!
For cereals, breads and crackers, look for a whole grain as the first ingredient. Whole grains are less processed and are better for you than refined grains. Look for these names: Whole Wheat, Whole Oat flour, Rolled Oats, Whole Corn flour.
The "Nutrition Facts" table
The Nutrition Facts table can help you know if the food is a good choice.
All Nutrition Facts tables are based on a specific amount of food. This amount is indicated at the top of the table either as a "Serving", "Serving Size", or "Per" (such as "Per 6 crackers").
Nutrition Facts tables must also list the number of calories in the reported amount of the food, as well as the amounts of 13 important nutrients that people tend to get too little or too much of.
The third thing that Nutrition Facts tables must include is the "% Daily Value" of important nutrients. The % Daily Value tells you if there is a little or a lot of the nutrient in the food.
Understanding the "% Daily Value"
A % Daily Value in the Nutrition Facts table of 5%, or less, is considered to be a small amount of that nutrient and 15%, or more, is considered to be a lot.
Nutrients to get more of (look for 15% or more) include: Fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron. These are nutrients that many of us don't get enough of.
Nutrients to get less of (look for 5% or less) include: Fat, Saturated and Trans fats, and Sodium. These are nutrients that many of us get too much of.
Comparing Pre-Packaged Foods
You can use Nutrition Facts tables to help choose products that are higher in the nutrients that you want more of and lower in the nutrients that you want less of. For example, fibre is important for a healthy digestive system and is low in the diets of Nunavummiut.
Here’s an example of how to use the Nutrition Facts Table to choose a breakfast cereal with more fibre. First, check to see if the serving size is similar for both products. Then look at the % Daily Value to see which cereal has more fibre.
Though the Nunavut Food Guide is the main nutrition education tool in Nunavut, it doesn’t have detailed information about serving sizes.
The serving sizes in this section are based on Canada’s Food Guide.