Reading and Understanding Food Labels in Canada

Nutrition labelling has become mandatory in Canada on all prepackaged foods. This way it has been designed to be easy to find, simple to read and to allow Canadians to make informed food choices!

Although reading nutrition labels can be tricky. Consumers are becoming health-conscious more than ever which is why some manufacturers use misleading tricks to convince people to buy highly processed and unhealthy products. 

In this blog post we will explain how to read food labels so that you can differentiate between mislabeled junk and truly healthy foods. 

Step 1: Look at the serving size

The serving size is at the top of the Nutrition Facts table. All the information in the Nutrition Facts table is based on this amount. Compare this to the amount of food you actually eat. For example, if the serving size listed is 1 cup but you ate 2 cups you need to double the amounts listed. Serving sizes listed on packaging may be misleading and unrealistic. Manufacturers often list a much smaller amount than what most people consume in one setting. 

Step 2: Watch out for misleading claims

Health claims are mainly designed to just catch your attention and convince you the product is healthy when it really isn't. 

Here are a few common claims:

  • Light. Light products are processed to reduce either calories or fat. Some products are simply watered down. Check carefully to see if anything has been added instead - like sugar. 
  • Multigrain. This sounds very healthy but only means that a product contains more than one type of grain. These are most likely refined grains-unless the product is marked as whole grain. 
  • Organic. This label says very little about whether a product is healthy. For example, organic sugar is still sugar. 
  • Low-fat. This label usually means that the fat has been reduced at the cost of adding more sugar. Be careful and read the ingredient list. 

Step 3: Watch out for the different names for sugar

Sugar can be recognized by countless names - many of which you might not recognize. Food manufacturers use this to their advantage by purposely adding many different types of sugar to their products to hide the actual amount. 

To avoid consuming more sugar than you actually need, watch out for the following names of sugar in ingredient lists:

Types of sugar: beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered sugar, cane sugar, caster sugar, date sugar, invert sugar, muscovado sugar, raw sugar, organic sugar, and coconut sugar.

Types of syrup: carob syrup, golden syrup, honey, agave nectar, malt syrup, and rice syrup.

Other added sugars: barley malt, molasses, corn sweetener, dextran, malt powder, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, glucose, maltodextrin, and maltose. 

The information on the food label is to help Canadians make informed decisions about the foods they eat. Use this information combination with Canada's Food Guide to make informed choices on healthy eating! 

Dieticians look beyond fads to deliver reliable, life-changing advice. Connect with one of gfits dieticians to help unlock your potential of food choices.

Book a call with our Wellness Coordinator to learn more