What to look for and how to read nutrition labels.
What kind of nutritional information should I look for?
With all the nutrition information available at our fingertips, it can be confusing to know what to focus on. Keep in mind these tips when choosing healthier items:
Balance – Canada’s Food Guide is undergoing an extensive update. One thing that will not change however, is the importance of eating a balanced diet with a variety of foods. Making sure your child has a selection of different foods ensures they are getting all the nutrients they need. More plant-based/less animal-based protein, carbohydrates for energy, healthy fats and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Portion sizes – Eating a variety of foods is one thing, but how much we eat - food portion sizes - is just as important. Too much of not-so-healthy choices, and not enough of the good food we need, can leave kids feeling not their best. While it is up to kids to decide how much to eat, in this world of supersized portions, it is still your job to teach them that they should listen to their bodies and not have to finish everything just because that’s the amount that was provided.
Sugar – Sugar provides calories but has no other nutritional benefits. Try to limit sugary foods; too much sugar can lead to many health problems. Sipping on sugary drinks regularly can also be harmful to your child’s teeth so it is best to limit sugar in your child's diet.
How do I know what is a healthy food choice?
Food nutrition labels provide a wealth of information. Like Canada’s Food Guide, Health Canada has also implemented food labelling changes, which means we will see new labels and information over the next five years that make it even easier to understand what’s in our food. In the meantime, keep these two items in mind:
% Daily Value – If a label says an item has 15 grams of sugar per serving, is that too much? The % Daily Value (DV) puts it into perspective: five per cent or less is a little, 15 per cent or more is a lot. While the current food labels list the % DV for many nutrients, sugar is not one of them, yet. Keep a lookout for the new labels which will require a % DV for sugar, as well as other nutrients.
Ingredients – If the first ingredient in a strawberry fruit snack is sugar, and not strawberries, chances are it’s not a very healthy choice. Ingredients are listed by weight from the most to the least, so a food contains more of the ingredients at the beginning of the list, and less of the ingredients at the end.
What else can help me make healthier food choices?
Review the Brand Name Food List to help you determine which pre-packaged foods is a better choice. While it doesn’t list all foods available, it analyzes over 2,000 items and is regularly updated.