Your Easy Guide to Reading Food Labels

January 5, 2014 - 3 minutes read

Grocery Shopping

All pre-packaged food is required to display a Nutrition Facts table somewhere on their product. To understand these labels, follow these simple steps:

Nutrition Facts Label

This helpful table provides you with information regarding the main nutrients and calories that a specific amount of the product contains.

1. Check the Serving Size

Before you even glance at the percentages, take a good look at the very first line to get your bearings. This measure is known as the serving size and in this case, it’s “per 10 crackers” or “for every 28g of the product consumed”. As a bonus, sizes are standardized to help you compare similar foods.

It’s important that you look at this to get an idea of how many servings are actually in the package. This should be your guide when determining how many servings you should actually consume. Double the serving size, double the calories and double the %DV.

2. Read the %DV

The %DV is the percent amount of a particular nutrient that is contained in one serving, described as a % of your recommended daily intake.

Quick Percentage Tip: Anything 5% or less is considered a littleAnything 15% or more is considered a lot.

What you want

Nutrients you want less of include:
(you want 5%DV or less)

Fat
Saturated and trans-fats
Sodium
Sugar

Nutrients you want more of include:
(you want 15%DV or more)

Fibre
Vitamin A
Calcium
Iron

3. Read through the Ingredients List

The list of ingredients can often be found near the Nutrition Facts table. Ingredients are always listed in order of weight, meaning that items near the start of the list are found in higher quantities than those at the end. Nutrients that you want to keep in lower quantities (such as fats, sodium, and sugar) can often be found under a large variety of names.

Fat can be called…

Butter
Bacon
Hydrogenated oil
Lard
Margarine
Powdered milk
Shortening

Sodium can be called…

Baking powder
Baking soda
Disodium phosphate
Monosodium glutamate
Sodium benzoate
Sodium bisulfate
Soy sauce

Sugar can be called…

Cane juice extract
Corn syrup
Dextrose*
Glucose-fructose*
Honey
Molasses
Syrup

*Typically, words ending in “-ose” are sugars

Determine what your body needs more or less of then use your good judgement to choose foods that cater to your own needs. Don’t let pretty graphics and flashy type influence your choices.