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Can You Read a Nutrition Fact Label?

June 15, 2019

You are what you eat! I couldn't agree more!

 

 

 

And if you are struggling with poor gut health, hormonal imbalances or trying unsuccessfully to move the needle on the scale, the chances are your eating habits are largely to blame! If we want to to FEEL healthy, we need to EAT healthy. It really is that simple. We need to focus on fueling our body with powerhouse, energising and healing nutrients instead of poisoning it with more toxins! 

 

In a perfect world you would be eating nothing but organic, wholefoods that have had little or no tampering so they are consumable in their original, natural, nutritious state. However, the crazy fast world that we live in means we often resort to packaged or canned foods for convenience. The problem here of course is in order to "preserve" the food in a package or tends to be loaded with artificial ingredients to prolong their shelf life. Artificial ingredients are nothing short of poison to our body! 

 

Luckily, if you search hard enough you can now find some reputable, healthier food manufacturers who are trying to bridge the gap between convenience and healthier options. Although they manufacture packaged foods such as granola bars, breakfast cereal, etc. they make every effort to avoid as many artificial ingredients as possible and use more natural ingredients to help preserve, sweeten, etc. 

 

But are you clear on how to tell the difference between a healthier convenience option and a typical preservative-loaded, artificial option? If you are managing your weight, do you understand how to measure the correct portion size to limit intake of certain ingredients such as sugar, salt, etc?

 

The Nutrition Facts table is on the side of most packaged foods. It’s often found close to the ingredient listing.

 

The purpose of it is to help consumers make better nutrition decisions. When people can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food and can read the ingredients list they should be able to eat better, right?

 

Whether you like the Nutrition Facts table or not, let’s make sure you get the most out of it, since it’s here to stay!

 

Since there is a lot of information on this topic I am going to break it down into two separate blog posts. This post will focus on understanding the nutrition measurements. 

 

Here’s my four-step crash course!

 

Step 1: Serving Size

 

The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Facts table is to note the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. So, it's tricky.

 

All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products.

 

In Canada, in the next few years (between 2017-2022), serving sizes will be more consistent between similar foods. This will make it easier to compare foods. The new labels will also have more realistic serving sizes to reflect the amount that people eat in one sitting, and not be artificially small.

 

Let’s use an example - plain, unsalted walnuts from Costco.

 

 

 

As you can see, right under the Nutrition Facts header is the serving size. That is a ¼ cup or 30 g. This means that all the numbers underneath it are based on this amount.

 

 

FUN EXPERIMENT: Try using a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised at how small it is (imagine a ¼ cup of walnuts).

 

Step 2: % Daily Value

 

The % Daily Value (%DV) is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day. This is added up based on all of the foods and drinks you have throughout the day.

 

NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.

 

The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule.

 

You don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15% or more to be a lot.

 

NOTE: Not every nutrient has a %DV. You can see it's missing for things like cholesterol, sugar, and protein. This is because there isn't an agreed "official" %DV for that nutrient. The good news is that the new Nutrition Facts tables will include a %DV for sugar. Keep your eyes out for that.

 

Step 3: Middle of the table (e.g. Calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein)

 

Calories are pretty straight forward. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 200 calories.

 

Fat is bolded for a reason. That 19 g of fat (29% DV) is total fat. That includes the non-bolded items underneath it. Here, 19 g of total fat includes 1.5 g saturated fat, (19 g - 1.5 g = 17.5 g) unsaturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. (Yes, unsaturated fats including mono- and poly-unsaturated are not on the label, so you need to do a quick subtraction).

 

Cholesterol, sodium, and potassium are all measured in mg. Ideally, aim for around 100% of potassium and sodium each day. It's easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you (e.g. if your doctor mentioned it, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.).

 

Carbohydrate, like fat, is bolded because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bolded items underneath it like fiber, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 3 g of carbohydrates; that 3 g are all fiber. There is no sugar or starch. And as you can see, 3 g of fiber is 12% of your daily value for fiber.

 

Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts contains 5 g of protein.

 

Step 4: Bottom of the table (e.g. vitamins & minerals)

 

The vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the table are also straightforward. The new labels will list potassium, calcium, and iron. Yes, potassium will drop from the middle of the table to the bottom, and both vitamins A & C will become optional.

 

Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table (this is optional). And you'll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.

 

Conclusion

 

I hope this crash course in the Nutrition Facts table was helpful. While you can take it or leave it when it comes to making food decisions, it’s here to stay. And it will change slightly over the next few years.

 

Do you have questions about it? If so, leave me a comment below.

 

If you have a specific health challenge or are concerned about chronic symptoms and would like to know where to focus to heal your body naturally, let's have a casual, no-obligation chat! Book a FREE online strategy session so we can assess your situation and review the most viable options to help you move forward with confidence and a plan!

 

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR FREE STRATEGY SESSION TODAY!

 

 

 

In the meantime, enjoy a guilt-free, label-free snack.....

 

Recipe (walnuts): Delicious and Super-Easy Walnut Snack

 

Serves 1

 

8 walnut halves

4 dates, pitted

 

Instructions

 

Make a "date sandwich" by squeezing each date between two walnut halves.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Try with pecans instead.

 

 

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