Nutrition- How to Read a Nutrition Facts Table
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What is a Nutrition Facts Table?
The Nutrition Facts table helps you determine the amount of calories and nutrients in one serving of food. Nutrients include fats, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals. This information helps you know whether you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet.
The table, which is included on every packaged food product, lists the amount of:
- Total fat
- Saturated fat
- Trans fat
- Total carbohydrate
- Dietary fibre
- Vitamins and minerals
What is a serving size?
Serving size is the first piece of information listed on the table. A serving size is the amount of food that is typically eaten in one serving. It is listed as a general household measurement, such as pieces, cups, grams or milliliters (for example, 7 potato chips or 3/4 cup (175 g) of yogurt).
Serving size is an important part of a healthy diet. Eating very large servings (or portions) can contribute to weight gain because as you eat larger portions, you eat more calories.
It’s important to compare the serving size listed on the container to the amount of that food that you normally eat. For example, the table may list a serving size as 7 potato chips or 28 g of cake. If you usually eat twice that amount, you are also eating twice the amount of calories and nutrients.
What is the Percent Daily Value?
A healthy person should consume a certain amount of fats, carbohydrates (especially fibre), protein, and vitamins and minerals each day. Certain ingredients, such as saturated fats and trans fats, are considered unhealthy and should only be eaten in very small amounts. The nutrition table provides a list of percentages (called the Percent Daily Value) that compares how much of a certain nutrient one serving of food contains to how much of that nutrient you should consume daily.
One serving of food with 5% or less of the daily value is considered low. One serving of a food with 15% or more of the daily value is considered high.
The Percent Daily Value is based on a daily diet of 2,000 calories. You will need to adjust the percentages if you eat more or less than 2,000 calories per day. For more information on calorie allowances, read our handout on determining calorie needs.
What ingredients should I limit in my diet?
- Saturated fat. Saturated fat can increase your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. The average adult should consume no more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day.
- Trans fat. Trans fat also increases your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should get 0 grams of trans fat per day. When you read a nutrition table remember that companies are allowed to list the amount of trans fat as “0 grams” if it contains less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving. This means that your food can contain some trans fat even if the nutrition table says “0 grams” per serving! Always check the ingredient list for trans fat, which may be listed as “hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Trans fat is usually found in commercially prepared baked goods, fried foods, snack foods and margarine.
- You should eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day (and less than 200 milligrams per day if you have heart disease). For more information see Cholesterol.
What ingredients should I get more of in my diet?
- Fibre helps your body digest the food you eat, and it can help lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease. A food is considered high in fibre if it contains 5 grams of fibre or more per serving. Canadian women need 25 grams of fibre per day and men need 38 grams of fibre per day. Fibre is found in foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Look for the words “whole grain” on the package and ingredient list.
- Vitamins and Minerals. The nutrition table lists vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. You should try to get more of these nutrients in your daily diet, as well as other vitamins and minerals that are not listed on the table. You can learn more about vitamins and minerals here: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/understanding-food-labels/percent-daily-value.html
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