It's Your Health
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Healthy eating can help you improve your health and reduce your risk of many chronic diseases. Food labels found on most pre-packaged food and drinks give important information to help you make healthy choices.
A food label contains this information:
The Nutrition Facts table shows the number of calories and the amounts of 13 core nutrients that are in a specific amount of food.
An ingredient list is also found on food labels. Ingredients are listed by weight, and those with the greatest weights are listed first. The list can help you figure out what is in your food, and how much of one ingredient there is relative to another. There may be some items on the ingredient list that you are not familiar with. Sometimes nutrients like saturated and trans fats, sodium and sugar can appear on an ingredient list under many different names.
There are two types of nutrition claims on food labels:
You can use both types of nutrition claims as starting points, but don't rely only on them to make food choices. Use the Nutrition Facts and the list of ingredients to get a complete picture of a food product.
The nutrition information found in the Nutrition Facts table is based on the amount of food listed. If you eat more or less than the amount listed, you will be taking in more or less of the nutrients and calories. For example, if you normally eat one cup of cereal and the specific amount of food is listed as one-half of a cup, you would need to double the quantities listed to know exactly what you are eating.
You can still choose between two food products, even if the amounts of food don't look the same:
For example, Cracker A has a similar amount of food (23 g) compared to Cracker B (20 g). So you can still compare these two crackers, even if the number of crackers is different.
For example, you can compare two slices of bread (70 g) to one bagel (90 g), since you would likely eat either at one time. You can also compare a 125 g container of yogurt to a 175 g one, since you would be likely to have either one as a single serving.
The % DV is an important part of the Nutrition Facts table, to help you see if a food has a little or a lot of a nutrient. Use this three-step approach to make healthier food choices:
Make a better choice for you. Here are the nutrients that you may want...
Nutrition labels help you make better food choices for yourself and your family.
Nutrition labels are also important to millions of Canadians and their family members who have, or are at risk of, chronic diseases like some types of cancer, diabetes, Hypertension and stroke. It can help them better manage special diets. For example, if you are concerned about high blood pressure and are trying to limit your intake of sodium, you can use the % Daily Value to quickly tell if a food has a little or a lot of this nutrient.
Health Canada provides educational information on its website, including interactive features and tips on how to make healthier food choices using the % DV found in the Nutrition Facts table. A ready-to-use presentation is also available for educators and health care providers to teach about how to make informed food choices using the nutrition information on food labels. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for nutrition labelling compliance and enforcement.
You can also call toll free at 1-866-225-0709 or TTY at 1-800-267-1245*
Updated: November 2011
Original: July 2004
©Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Health, 2011