Facts about reading food labels
- Nutrition labels provide information on key nutrients, like fat, carbohydrates, sodium, vitamins, and minerals, and can help you make informed decisions.
- Food labels help you differentiate between individual foods and brands to make informed purchasing choices.
- Most of the healthiest foods don’t need a label. For example, fresh fruit, vegetables, and fresh meat do not need to show their nutritional facts.
Reading food labels
- When looking at the nutrition facts on a label, always start with the serving size. When you are comparing items at a store, you will need to ensure you are comparing the same amount. For example, you may be looking at one loaf of bread where the serving size is for one slice, and another loaf of bread where the serving size is for two slices.
- There are three basic nutrients that affect heart health. These nutrients are fat, sodium and fibre. Saturated and trans-fats have been shown to increase cholesterol levels in the blood, which can lead to narrowing and hardening of the arteries. For more information on cholesterol, you can visit our section on Cholesterol & Triglycerides. Sodium (salt), has been linked to increased blood pressure, which can lead to heart and vascular disease. For more information on blood pressure, you can visit our section on High Blood Pressure. Fibre has been shown to decrease blood cholesterol levels and improve health outcomes. Fibre is only found in plants, so you will not see fibre in animal-based products.
- Once you have located the key nutrients for heart health (saturated fat, trans-fat, sodium, and fibre) on the label, you can now identify how much of each nutrient is in the serving size. To identify how much of a nutrient is in a serving size, you can use the % daily value found on the nutrient facts table. Use the % daily value to see if the serving size has a little or a lot of a nutrient. As a general rule of thumb, less than 5% is considered “a little”, and more than 15% is considered “a lot”. For heart health, choose food products that per serving size, have “a little” saturated fat, and “a lot” of fibre. Aim for zero trans-fat.
Want more information?
- Book an appointment with our Registered Dietitian.
- View our handout on Reading Food Labels.
- Speak to your Exercise Therapist.
- Attend our Heart Healthy Education on Heart Healthy Eating.
- Visit Understanding Food Labels in Canada