myFM: How to read nutrition labels

by Lianne Phillipson February 24, 2021

myFM: How to read nutrition labels

Out of all that is on the Nutrition Facts, here’s what I want you to look at:

Serving size- this can trip you up. It can vary and that’s just annoying to try and compare. This should even out at some point. 

Sodium - Thinking that there isn’t much sodium in your pasta sauce could really be because the serving size is small. Mine Farm Boy Arrabiata sauce says it has 200mg sodium per ½ cup andRagu pasta sauce has 480mg sodium per ½ cup. Health Canada suggests adults consume between 1500 milligrams (mg) per day and not exceed 2300 mg per day, which is the equivalent of just over one teaspoon of salt. 

Fats - fats are listed as saturated. There will be a total fat content and saturated fat. Do a bit of math and figure out what’s left and that can be good fats, neutral or monounsaturated fats too. My organic mayo says the total fat is 11g. Then under the total fat, it says saturated fat is 1.5g per tablespoon. That means that 9.5g of fat that isn’t listed is monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat. 

Cholesterol - well it’s been proven that eating cholesterol doesn’t really impact your blood cholesterol, so honestly this is rather outdated. My mayo says it has 10g of cholesterol, which isn’t surprising as it has egg yolks in it. A great source of cholesterol which is important to transport your hormones around your body.  

Carbohydrates - this includes fibre and sugar. The higher the fiber; the better and the lower the sugar the better. Some labels have  ‘from added sugar’ which would mean from sugar as an ingredient whereas if you have a dish with rice in it, there will be a carb value on the label because rice is a carb source. 

Sugar -The amount of sugar is reported in grams. That means nothing to most of us, so take at number - if it’s a can of 12 oz or 330 bottle of coke it says 39 grams sugar on the label. Divide the 39 by 4 and you’ll have a visual on how much is in there because  4 g of sugar equals one teaspoon. In this case, that drink contains almost 10 teaspoons of sugar. That’s just shy of ¼ cup of sugar in that one bottle of pop.

What about that percentage that you see on the label and the DV? Well that’smeant to act as a benchmark to determine if that food is high or low in a certain nutrient.The 5% DV or less is a little of a nutrient and 15% DV or more is a lot of a nutrient. They only list four nutrients - vitamin A, calcium, iron and vitamin C.

Ingredients - The more ingredients the more stuff in it. You need to assess that based on what you’ve got in your hand. That could be good or bad. Michael Polan in promoting his book In Defence of Food in 2008 said don’t eat anything with more than 5 ingredients.

Even if it feels like a minefield to read the nutrition label, it’s an important piece of information. And know that the more natural it is, like fruit or veggies, no label needed!

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