Making Healthier Food Choices

Read nutrition facts labels and follow healthy eating tips from “Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide".

Nutrition Facts Labels

Nutrition Facts Labels help you:

  • Compare food products
  • Find nutritional values of foods
  • Manage special diets 
  • Increase or decrease your intake of specific nutrients
  • Choose foods with less:
    • Total Fat, saturated fat and trans fat
    • Sodium
    • Cholesterol
  • Choose foods with more:
    • Fibre
    • Vitamin A, C and D
    • Calcium
    • Iron

What's on a label?

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1. Serving Size
Foods differ in serving size. If the serving sizes are similar, you can compare the two foods. The amount (g or %DV) of a nutrient on the label is what is in one serving size. Note the serving size and compare it to what you normally eat.

2. Calorie Content
Calories are the nutritional measure of energy.

3. Nutrient Content
May be indicated in grams (g), milligrams (mg) or Percent Daily Value (%DV). %DV is based off of the amount of nutrients that an “average” person may need in a day. The %DV can be used to compare the nutrient content of different foods. 

* 5% DV or less is a little
*15% DV or more is a lot

  • Fat: Choose foods with lower fat content.
    • Saturated fats: Choose foods with lower amounts.
    • Trans: Aim for none.
  • Sodium: Choose low  - aim to stay below 2300mg/day.
  • Fibre: Choose high. Fibre promotes digestive health and can help lower cholesterol -Aim for about 30g/day.
  • Sugar: this reflects both natural and added sugar. Added sugars will be listed on the ingredients list with names like: sugar, syrup, cane juice, turbinado sugar, agave syrup, molasses.
  • Vitamins and minerals: Some important ones to look for are: Vitamin D, Calcium and Iron.

4.  Ingredient List
Lists ingredients in order of weight; the first ingredient weighs the most.

Making Healthier Choices

Use the following criteria (per serving) to help you make healthier choices. 

Fruit and Vegetables (frozen, canned, packaged):

  • First Ingredient:  Vegetable or fruit
  • Fat:  5 g or less;
  • Sugar:  Not first ingredient
  • Fibre:  2g or more per serving
  • Sodium:  less than 480 mg 

Grain Products: (baked, pasta, cereal)

  • First Ingredient:  Whole grain
  • Fat: 10g or less.  No trans fat
  • Sodium: Less than 480 mg 
  • Sugar: 12g or less 
  • Fibre: 2g or more 

Milk and Alternatives: (cheese, soy beverages)

  • First Ingredient:  Milk, Soy, Water
  • Fat:  10 g or less; 0.5 trans fat
  • Sugar: 25 g or less
  • Calcium:at least 10% DV

Meat and Alternatives: (lentils, nuts, eggs)

  • First Ingredient:  meat, or alternative ( tofu, soy, seeds)
  • Fat:  15 g total; 5 g saturage; 0.5 g trans
  • Sodium:  less than 480 mg
  • Protein:  5 g or greater
  • High in Iron

Mixed dishes: ( packaged meals, soups, snacks)

  • Trans fat: 0.5 g or less  
  • AND Four of the following:
    • Fat: 3g (5% DV) or less
    • Saturated fat: 2 g or less
    • Sodium: 960 mg (40% DV) or less
    • Fibre: 2 g or greater
  • Sugars: Should not be listed as 1st or 2nd  ingredient.
  • At least One of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium OR iron: 5% DV or greater

Healthy Eating Tips

Foods to choose more often:

  • Vegetables and Fruit
  • Whole grain products
  • Lower fat milk and alternatives
  • Lean cuts or types of meat
  • Sources of fibre, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals
  • Lower in added fat, salt and sugar

Examples of these foods are:

  • Fresh/frozen fruit with no added sugar
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Skim or 1% milk
  • Cooked dried beans peas and lentils

Foods to choose sometimes:

  • Processed foods
  • Lower in fibre
  • Higher in fat
  • Higher in sugar
  • Higher in salt

Examples of these foods are:

  • Dried fruit
  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Chocolate milk
  • Breaded fish, meat or chicken
  • Canned soup or stew

More healthy eating tips from “Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide”

  • Eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day
  • Make at least half of your grain products whole grain each day
  • Have skim milk or lower fat dairy and dairy alternatives
  • Choose meat alternatives often
  • Eat at least 2 servings of fish per week

Resources

 For more information on reading Nutrition Facts Labels go to:

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