Do you ever read the Nutrition Facts label on the back of the food products you buy? If you read only the front you might be fooled into thinking you are eating a healthy all natural food. If you read the label does it make sense to you? Curious to know what it all means?
Labeling is important so you know what you are eating. Have you read some of those ingredient lists and they all sound like chemicals? These labels are government regulated and mandatory. The government amended the labeling requirements to be more specific because some companies were, to be frank, being sneaky.
Health Canada changed the label regulations in late 2016 and have given companies 5 years to comply with the changes. One of the reasons changes were made was because consumers found serving sizes confusing. Not many of us know exactly how much 175g is making it more challenging to understand how much you are eating. Serving sizes will remain in metric as well as for items like bread as 2 slices (always 2 slices). Serving sizes will now include the imperial measurement. I think we all know what 1 cup looks like. The regulations also wanted the labels to reflect what one would typically eat in one sitting.
The label gives nutritional information: calories, fat (including saturated and trans), carbohydrate, fiber, sugars, protein, cholesterol and sodium. The old labels stated how much Vitamin A, C, calcium and iron was in the food. The new regulations will only require potassium, calcium and iron. However in the products I purchase, I have not seen that change yet. The thinking on this change is that the government believes that Canadians are getting the daily requirement of Vitamin A and C. Potassium was added because it plays a role in healthy blood pressure and we are simply not getting enough. Heart disease is the number 1 cause of death in Canada.
The labels show % of Daily Value. Let’s take fiber as an example. If the label shows that the serving size of fiber is 5g and the Daily Value is 20%, that means you would need 25 more grams of fiber in the day to make your daily requirement needs. On average, the minimum requirement of fiber is around 30g. Protein does not give a Daily Value because the daily requirement is quite different between men, women and activity level.
A change I found interesting was sugar. There never was a Daily Value for sugar because we simply do not need it. Health Canada still does not recommend sugar as a daily requirement however the label shows that the Daily Value would 100g. In other words, sugar is not recommended, yet everyone is eating it, and if you are eating it don’t eat more that 100g. The message here is for you to be aware of how much sugar you are consuming….should you want to know.
Changes have also been made on how the list of ingredients show. It remains listing from most to least. However some companies made this tricky to read. Even though the product would be mostly sugar, it would list a variety of different forms of sugar (like brown sugar, beet sugar, barley malt, dextrose, sucrose, fancy molasses for example). So when you looked at the list sugar was not listed in the first couple of ingredients. The new labeling will now show Sugar and in brackets list all the sugars used. So if you look at candy and other sweet treats you will now likely see sugar listed first.
I looked for a new label to show how sugar is listed and could not find any in the products I buy. Here is a link to Health Canada to show you the label and more detailed info should this intererest you further: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-labelling-changes.html
What has not changed is the labeling requirements of trans fat. If the package says Zero Trans Fat or No Trans Fat it still can contain trans fat. It can be labeled that way as long as the food contains less than 0.2g of trans fatty acids per serving size. Read the list of ingredients because trans fat will be listed there. Look for words like hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. This is really important for those with high cholesterol or heart issues.
Bottom line, if you want to know exactly what you are eating, look at the label on the back not the fancy “health washing” words on the front of the package.
From the heart,
Heart to Heart Nutrition offers nutritional consulting, a 12 week online sleep coaching program, health breakthrough coaching where deep-rooted behaviours impede the journey back to self-care, self-love and self-worth. Other services include hypnotherapy and reiki.