Understanding Nutrition Labels

By: CHRISTINA COLAVECCHIA

Eating healthy is always difficult.  Knowing what to eat, and how much of it, can be confusing and complicated for even the most experienced healthy eater. Nutrition labels help provide important information about the nutritional value and recommended serving size of a food.  This information will undoubtedly help you make better choices and achieve overall better health.

Everyone has seen a nutrition label before – but how many of us actually read and try to understand it?  Most packaged foods have a nutrition label printed on the outside of the box or package the food came in, making the nutritional information accessible.

Most nutrients, like vitamins, are measured in grams (g) or milligrams (mg) (there are 1,000 milligrams in 1 gram).  Other information on the labels, like fat, protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins, are measured in percentages.  These percentages and measurements let consumers know how nutritional (or ‘un-nutritional’) a food is.

A nutrition label (titled ‘Nutrition Facts’ on most packages) is divided into information about 13 core nutrients and calories. These nutrients and calories are based on a particular amount of food (or serving size).
The ‘% Daily Value’ of a food (usually located at the top right corner of the nutrition fact label) is a tool that helps consumers see if a specific food has a little or a lot of nutritional value.  Fats, saturated fats (combined), sodium, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium all have % DV values, which are based on the highest recommended intake for each sex and age group.  On the nutrition facts label, the amount of each nutrient contained in the food is divided by its % Daily Value and multiplied by 100.

Apple Pie LÄRABAR:

                        

A LÄRABAR, then, offers 20% of the recommended 25 daily grams of fibre, while the Quaker Chewy Granola bar offers only 8%.

You should always check the % DV when comparing products, and remember, the % DV is based on a specific amount of food.  If you eat more or less than the serving size, you will also eat more or less of the nutrients and calories listed.  Compare the amount you actually eat to the nutrition facts label.

Use this chart to ensure you’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients in your daily diet:

Daily Values for the 13 Core Nutrients and Calories

Nutrient

Daily Values

Fat 65 g
The sum of saturated and trans fatty acids 20 g
Cholesterol 300 mg
Sodium 2400 mg
Carbohydrate 300 g
Fibre 25 g
Sugars no DV
Protein no DV
Vitamin A 1000 RE
Vitamin C 60 mg
Calcium 1100 mg
Iron 14 mg
  • Information provided by Health Canada.
  • Based on a 2000-calorie reference diet.

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Categories: Home, Sections, Your Nutrition

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