Using the Nutrition Facts Table
There are many nutrients that are not listed on the Nutrition Facts table that may be in the food.
Some food labels may list other vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, riboflavin, folic acid and vitamin B12.
Percent Daily Value (% Daily Value)
The % Daily Value puts nutrients on a scale from 0% to 100%. It is based on a standard diet of either 2000 or 2500 Calories and certain nutrient criteria. It does not necessarily reflect your own personal nutrient needs. For this reason, % Daily Value is not intended to be used to choose foods to add up to 100%.
The easiest way to use Nutrition Fact tables is to compare two similar products. Choose the product that has more of the nutrients you want to get more of and less of the nutrients you want to get less of.
Percent Daily Value is helpful to tell you whether there is a little or a lot of a nutrient in one serving.
What is "a little" and What is "a lot?"
This actually varies for individuals and for nutrients. But we can use % Daily Value to see if the nutrients we are trying to increase have higher percentages, and those that we are trying to decrease have lower percentages.
- For nutrients you want to limit (such as saturated fat, trans fat and sodium), aim for 5% Daily Value or less.
- For nutrients you want to increase (such as fibre, calcium and iron), aim for 15% Daily Value or more.
It is important to remember that your nutrient needs depend on your age, gender and health conditions. Some people may need to limit or to increase their intake of specific nutrients. If you need more information on the amount of a specific nutrient that is right for you, talk to your health care provider.
Be Careful! Make sure you check the serving size and compare it to what is in the package and what you plan to eat. If you eat twice the amount as the serving size listed on the label, you will be consuming twice the Calories, fat and sodium!
The Ingredient List tells you what ingredients are in a packaged food. Ingredients are listed in order so you get an idea of how much of each ingredient is in the food. When something is listed first, second, or third, you know that this food probably contains a lot of it. The food will contain smaller amounts of the ingredients listed at the end of the list.
This list is very important for people who have food allergies. Make sure you know the different names of the food ingredient you are trying to avoid. If your child's school has food restrictions because of food allergies, read the Ingredient List on all foods your child brings to school. This is important to help keep the children at your child's school safe. Allergies to foods, like peanuts, can cause very serious reactions that can even cause death.
Nutrient Content Claims tell you about one nutrient, such as sodium, fat or sugar. The package may say there is 25% less sodium than in a similar product. It may say the product is fat free or there is no sugar added. This type of claim gets your attention.
Make sure you read the Nutrition Facts table too. A food that is "reduced" in sodium, fat or sugar could still be quite high in these less desirable nutrients.
Health Claims tell you how your diet can affect health. You might see these kind of claims:
- a healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats may reduce the risk of heart disease;
- a healthy diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D, and regular physical activity, helps to achieve strong bones and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis;
- a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruit may help reduce the risk of some types of cancer; and,
- a healthy diet containing foods low in sodium and high in potassium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
Manufacturers may choose to use Nutrient Content or Health Claims. They must use the wording that Health Canada has approved. All nutrition claims are optional. That means that some companies may choose to use them and others may not. It does not mean that companies who choose not to use nutrition claims have less healthy products. Read the Nutrition Facts and Ingredient List to be sure.