How to Read the New Nutrition Facts Tables

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, 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!

Here’s my four-step crash course on reading the Nutrition Facts table.

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 fibre, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 3 g of carbohydrates; that 3 g are all fibre. There is no sugar or starch. And as you can see, 3 g of fibre is 12% of your daily value for fibre.

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? Have you seen the new labels with a %DV for sugar? If so, leave me a comment below.

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

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS

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.

References:

http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/label-etiquetage/changes-modifications-eng.php

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/understanding-food-labels/percent-daily-value.html

http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/label-etiquetage/regulatory-guidance-directives-reglementaires/daily-values-valeurs-quotidiennes/guide-eng.php#p1

About Me

Hi, I’m Tracy! I create food solutions to feed your life goals. I’m a Nutritionist, chocoholic + superhero fan. Mom to three, wife to one, crazy about all four, and food! When you work with me you’ll learn to savour life and nourish all that it has to offer.

Follow Me

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
6 months ago
Tracy Houle Nutrition
I dont know about you but I have been struggling over these last few months. 

All of the things that Im normally pretty good at like staying positive, eating well, and being active have really been challenging for me during these difficult times.

I needed an inner shakedown!

And what I found was that I needed a really good plan and some accountability.

Starting on Monday, May 3rd, Im committing to a 4-week meal plan to revitalize my health and help me shed a few pounds. 

Wanna join me?

Just send me a quick DM with “I’M IN” and I’ll send you more info.

#healthfirst
#foodmatters
#nutritionist
#healthylifestyle
#cleaneating

I don't know about you but I have been struggling over these last few months.

All of the things that I'm normally pretty good at like staying positive, eating well, and being active have really been challenging for me during these difficult times.

I needed an inner shakedown!

And what I found was that I needed a really good plan and some accountability.

Starting on Monday, May 3rd, I'm committing to a 4-week meal plan to revitalize my health and help me shed a few pounds.

Wanna join me?

Just send me a quick DM with “I’M IN” and I’ll send you more info.

#healthfirst
#foodmatters
#nutritionist
#healthylifestyle
#cleaneating
... See MoreSee Less

6 months ago
Tracy Houle Nutrition
TODAY is EARTH DAY 🌳 (which is really everyday) and if you want to know how small changes can add up to a healthier planet 🌏 check out my newest blog (link below) where I do a deep dive into modern agriculture and how it impacts our health, as well as the health of the planet.

 

Actually, not be an ‘askhole’ but I’d really appreciate if you could take the 10 minutes, or so, to read it.

 

When it comes to farming, we’re in a cultural crisis – and it’s never been more important for food production to evolve and it’s us who will make it happen with our buying power.

 

The good news is that smaller scale, environmentally friendly, and regenerative farming practices are playing a big part in helping to restore lost nutrition in our soil and food, and you can “be the change” with my list of what you can do as an individual today!
 

So, have a read and let me know if you can support your local farmers or share your favourite farm in the comments below.

Two of my favourite local food producers are @farmqueenfoods & @providencehillfarm.ca 
 
https://tracyhoule.com/food_health_climate_change/

TODAY is EARTH DAY 🌳 (which is really everyday) and if you want to know how small changes can add up to a healthier planet 🌏 check out my newest blog (link below) where I do a deep dive into modern agriculture and how it impacts our health, as well as the health of the planet.



Actually, not be an ‘askhole’ but I’d really appreciate if you could take the 10 minutes, or so, to read it.



When it comes to farming, we’re in a cultural crisis – and it’s never been more important for food production to evolve and it’s us who will make it happen with our buying power.



The good news is that smaller scale, environmentally friendly, and regenerative farming practices are playing a big part in helping to restore lost nutrition in our soil and food, and you can “be the change” with my list of what you can do as an individual today!


So, have a read and let me know if you can support your local farmers or share your favourite farm in the comments below.

Two of my favourite local food producers are @farmqueenfoods & @providencehillfarm.ca

tracyhoule.com/food_health_climate_change/
... See MoreSee Less

Comment on Facebook

Very informative. Thanks for sharing !

7 months ago
Tracy Houle Nutrition
Ready for the truth no one wants you to know?

There actually IS a secret tool to getting healthier.

Here’s another secret:
It DOESN’T involve giving up treats and wine forever.

In fact, the way I’ve been able to keep my family and I healthy for the last decade has been largely thanks to the 80/20 rule.

This week’s blog (link below) is ALL about moderation. The word you hear SO MUCH, but never really know how to practically include in your life.

Also on the blog, 15 DELICIOUS (and I mean actually delicious) vegetable recipes.

No, I’m not going to tell you to make a plain salad with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Let’s talk about VEGGIES that are delicious and taste like our favourite comfort food.

When we start to rekindle our flame with veggies, we remember how good they can taste and how they make us FEEL.

What’s your favourite FUN way to include veggies in your diet? 

https://tracyhoule.com/how-to-rekindle-the-flame-with-vegetables/

Ready for the truth no one wants you to know?

There actually IS a secret tool to getting healthier.

Here’s another secret:
It DOESN’T involve giving up treats and wine forever.

In fact, the way I’ve been able to keep my family and I healthy for the last decade has been largely thanks to the 80/20 rule.

This week’s blog (link below) is ALL about moderation. The word you hear SO MUCH, but never really know how to practically include in your life.

Also on the blog, 15 DELICIOUS (and I mean actually delicious) vegetable recipes.

No, I’m not going to tell you to make a plain salad with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Let’s talk about VEGGIES that are delicious and taste like our favourite comfort food.

When we start to rekindle our flame with veggies, we remember how good they can taste and how they make us FEEL.

What’s your favourite FUN way to include veggies in your diet?

tracyhoule.com/how-to-rekindle-the-flame-with-vegetables/
... See MoreSee Less

Comment on Facebook

I really enjoyed reading your blog on Veggies! I like the different ideas on how to incorporate more veggies. I love grilled veggies the best but also enjoy making casseroles with different veggies! I cant wait to try some of your new veggie recipes....even the butternut smoothie😬!

Pin It on Pinterest