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Food and Nutrition

Ready-to-Use Articles - Sharing the Nutrition Facts

A collection of articles has been developed to assist educators and health professionals in promoting the use of nutrition labelling to Canadian consumers.

This resource can also assist with the following objectives:

  • To build awareness about nutrition information on food labels, including the Nutrition Facts table
  • To help consumers understand how to use Nutrition Facts to make informed food choices
  • To link nutrition labelling with existing healthy eating messages and programs

The articles can be used in:

  • Newsletters for public health or community health centre programs and initiatives
  • Community newspapers
  • Fact sheets or handouts
  • Workplace or association newsletters
  • A "Healthy Eating" section on a school, club or workplace bulletin board or display

Index of articles

Use the articles as they are or tailor them with examples and references that will have the most meaning to your audience. Much of the information found in the articles comes from Nutrition Labelling... Get the Facts! The Fact Sheets are a source of accurate and consistent information for writing your own articles and handouts.

Food Labels - A Consistent Look

Canadian consumers are taking an active role in making informed choices about the foods they buy and the foods they eat. Many consumers regularly refer to the nutrition information listed on food labels when they're shopping or choosing food for themselves and their family.

Regulations from the Government of Canada require food manufacturers to include nutrition information on food labels using a clear and consistent format. Almost all pre-packaged foods carry a Nutrition Facts table to help consumers make informed food choices. Check it out:

Nutrition Facts Table

  • The Nutrition Facts table has an easy-to-read format and looks the same from product to product.
  • The Nutrition Facts table contains information on Calories and at least 13 core nutrients.

More information on nutrition labelling is available by calling 1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) or by visiting: www.healthcanada.gc.ca/nutritionlabelling

Low Fat/High Fibre - Are All Nutrition Claims the Same?

Nutrition claims such as "reduced in fat" or "very high source of fibre" are often seen in advertising and on food labels. They are a quick and easy way to get information on a food's nutritional features. Their bold type and banner-formats make them hard to miss on the front or sides of food packages.

You may also see other types of nutrition claims. These claims highlight well-known relationships between diet and disease. For example, "a healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats may reduce the risk of heart disease".

It's important to know that nutrition claims have been, and continue to be, regulated by the federal government. In order for manufacturers to use a claim, the food must meet certain criteria set in the nutrition labelling regulations. The regulations apply to all foods and specify the exact wording to be used in the claim to ensure that it is consistently used and not misleading to consumers.

Nutrition claims are optional, so manufacturers can choose whether to use them or not. Two similar products may not have the same claims on their labels. This does not mean that the product with the claim is superior. For the information needed to make the healthier choice you'll need to check the Nutrition Facts.

Tips for using nutrition claims:

  • Even if a claim is present on a product, check the Nutrition Facts table to get the overall nutritional picture of a food. For example, the Nutrition Facts can tell you whether a product marked "low in fat" is still high in Calories.
  • Compare the specific amount of food listed in the Nutrition Facts to the amount that you eat. Then you can better estimate the nutritional value of the amount of food that you are eating.

You can get more information on nutrition labelling and claims by calling 1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232), or by visiting: www.healthcanada.gc.ca/nutritionlabelling

The Nutrition Facts Table - What's in it for You?

Have you ever wondered about the nutrition value of your favourite breakfast cereal? Does it have the dietary fibre you need? Is it high or low in sodium or saturated fat?

The Nutrition Facts table, which you see on almost all pre-packaged foods, makes it easier to answer questions you may have about what is in the foods you buy. In the Nutrition Facts you will find the number of Calories and the amounts of 13 nutrients contained in a specific amount of the food. These nutrients will be expressed in grams (g) or milligrams (mg) or as a % Daily Value.

Nutrition Facts Table

The Daily Values are based on recommendations for a healthy diet. The % Daily Value makes comparing foods easier because it puts all nutrients on the same scale (0% - 100% Daily Value), much like a ruler. For example, a food that has a % Daily Value of 5% or less for fat, sodium or cholesterol would be low in these nutrients. A food that has a % Daily Value of 15% or more for calcium, vitamin A or fibre would be high in these nutrients.

In general, you should look for a higher % Daily Value next to nutrients you are trying to increase in your diet, such as fibre, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron. Look for a lower % Daily Value for nutrients you are trying to decrease, such as saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium.

Also remember to compare the specific amount of food listed at the top of the Nutrition Facts to the amount that you eat. If you eat double the amount listed, don't forget to double the values for Calories and nutrients.

More information on nutrition labelling is available by calling 1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) or by visiting: www.healthcanada.gc.ca/nutritionlabelling

The List of Ingredients - More than Meets the Eye

Did you know?...

  • Almost all pre-packaged foods must include a list of ingredients.
  • Ingredients in a food are listed on the food label by weight from most to least (the ingredient that is in the largest amount is listed first).
  • The ingredient list is a source of information for people with allergies or people who want to avoid certain ingredients or verify the presence of an ingredient in a food.
  • You can use the ingredient list, together with the Nutrition Facts table, which has already started to appear on many food labels, to get a 'nutritional overview' of the food. Nutrition Facts lists the Calories and the amount of fat, saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, fibre, sugars, protein, calcium, iron and vitamins A and C in a specific amount of food.
  • Making healthy food choices can help reduce your risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Checking the ingredient list and the Nutrition Facts table can help you select foods to meet your needs.

You can get more information on nutrition labelling and the Nutrition Facts by calling 1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) or visiting: www.healthcanada.gc.ca/nutritionlabelling

Nutrition Labelling - It's the Amount That Counts

Food labels are valuable sources of information. A Nutrition Facts table is found on almost all food labels and it can tell you a lot about the food you buy. Reading food labels can help you make informed food choices, but there are important tips to keep in mind.

The nutrient information in the Nutrition Facts is always based on a specific 'amount' of food measured in household units - such as a cup of milk, or a slice of bread - followed by the metric measurement (g, mL). The amount reflects the quantity people usually eat at one sitting. The key however, is comparing the amount in the Nutrition Facts to the amount you actually eat. -Why? A favourite bowl you use at breakfast might hold anywhere from a cup to a 2 cup amount of cereal. Having 2 cups of a particular cereal may be five times the amount specified in the Nutrition Facts. If the cereal box label indicates a cup amount is 120 Calories, this means that, instead of consuming 120 Calories, you have just consumed a 600 Calorie bowl of cereal.

More tips for using the Nutrition Facts:

  • Remember - the amount of food in the Nutrition Facts is not a recommended serving. Canada's Food Guide recommends the amount and type of food needed for different age and gender groups, as well as different stages of life.
  • Nutrition Facts on different brands of the same type of food may be based on different amounts of food. For example, one brand of crackers may have nutrition information based on eight crackers, while another brand's is based on only four crackers. So check the metric amount under the Nutrition Facts when comparing products.
  • Not all foods are sold 'ready to eat'. Foods that require preparation, such as cake mix baked with an egg, or breakfast cereal served with milk, will have one column in Nutrition Facts providing nutrient values for the food as sold, while another column will provide nutrient values for the food "as prepared," with the extra egg or milk, for example.

You can get more information on nutrition labelling and Canada's Food Guide by calling 1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) or visiting: www.healthcanada.gc.ca/nutritionlabelling

Nutrition Claims: Reading Between the Lines

We often see claims such as "zero trans fat" and "reduced in calories" on the front of food packages highlighting a product's nutrition features. They are a quick and easy way to get information about a food, but these eye-catching statements do not tell the whole story. For example, a food free of trans fat may still be high in Calories. Be sure to also read the Nutrition Facts table to determine what a claim is really telling you.

Furthermore, the word "light" on a food label can mean different things. This claim is used to describe a food as "reduced in fat" and "reduced in calories", but not always. Sometimes the word "light" describes the taste, colour or texture of a food. Manufacturers must describe what is "light" about the food . Manufacturers can only use a nutrition claim if their product meets certain criteria.

Here are some other definitions for claims that may come in handy:

  • "Low" is always associated with a very small amount. "Low in fat" means the food contains no more than 3g (grams) of fat in the amount of food specified in the Nutrition Facts.
  • "Reduced in calories" means the food contains at least 25% less energy than the food to which it is compared.
  • "Source of fibre" means the food contains at least 2g of dietary fibre in the amount of food listed under the Nutrition Facts. A food with the claim 'High source of fibre' contains at least 4g in that amount of food. It is recommended that most Canadians consume about 25g or more of fibre per day.
  • "Less" is used to compare one product with another. For example, a box of crackers claiming to contain "50% less salt" will have half the sodium of the food to which it's compared. It doesn't necessarily mean the product is low in sodium, so check the sodium content in the Nutrition Facts.

While claims are a good starting point, you need to check the Nutrition Facts to get the details.

You can get more information on nutrition labelling and claims by calling

1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) or by visiting: www.healthcanada.gc.ca/nutritionlabelling

The Nutrition Facts Table - Easy to Find, Easy to Read and on Almost All Foods

Canadian consumers want accessible, practical and consistent nutrition information to help them make informed decisions about the foods they eat. Almost all pre-packaged foods have a mandatory Nutrition Facts table listing the Calories and 13 core nutrients in the food. Some exemptions are: fresh fruit and vegetables; raw meat and poultry (except when ground), and raw fish and seafood; food products that are prepared from ingredients or from pre-mixes; products with insignificant amounts of all 13 core nutrients, such as coffee, tea, spices; alcoholic beverages; and foods sold at road-side stands, craft shows, flea markets, and farmers' markets.

The Nutrition Facts helps you to compare products, assess the nutritional value of foods and better manage special diets through your food purchases. Compare the Nutrition Facts table on food labels to choose products that contain less fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium.

For more information on nutrition labelling and Canada's Food Guide

1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) or visit: www.healthcanada.gc.ca/nutritionlabelling

A Tour of the Nutrition Facts Table

Nutrition Facts Table

  1. All of the information in the Nutrition Facts is based on a specified amount of food - always compare it to the amount you eat.
  2. Nutrition Facts lists the Calories and 13 core nutrients. Additional nutrients may be listed on some labels.
  3. The % Daily Value tells you if there is a lot or a little of a nutrient in the specified amount of food. % Daily Values are based on recommendations for a healthy diet.
  4. These numbers give the quantity of each nutrient in the specified amount of food. The quantity is listed even if it is zero.

Add Vegetables and Fruit to Your Cart More Often

Both fresh and processed vegetables and fruit are sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Choosing different forms of vegetables and fruit adds variety to healthy eating and allows you to enjoy Canadian produce year-round.

The convenience of frozen and canned vegetables and fruit suits today's busy lifestyles. Frozen vegetables are easy to use in a stir-fry with no washing, trimming or chopping required! Check the list of ingredients on prepared foods to see if vegetables and fruit are near the beginning of the list. (Ingredients are always listed by weight from most to least.) Also scan the food label to be sure additional ingredients you may not want are not listed, such as heavy syrups in canned fruit or sodium in sauces for vegetables.

A healthy diet, rich in vegetables and fruit, can help reduce your risk of developing some types of cancer. Go for salads, broccoli, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots or cantaloupes.

Look for the Nutrition Facts table on frozen or canned vegetables and fruit for helpful information, such as the amount of fibre, vitamin A and vitamin C. Use the Nutrition Facts to help you make informed food choices. Food is one of life's great pleasures, and enjoying food is part of healthy eating.

For more information on nutrition labelling and Canada's Food Guide visit Health Canada online at: www.healthcanada.gc.ca/nutritionlabelling

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ISBN 0-662-36432-5