Friday, November 18, 2016

Making Informed Food Choices with the Nutrition Facts Table #FocusOnTheFacts

As the Saturday morning cartoon used to say, "Knowledge is power!" and when it comes to making healthy food choices for my family, I want to tap in to all the power I can. I appreciate that most of our packaged food in Canada is required by law to provide a Nutrition Facts Table, and so I've made it a point to learn how to read that table and use the knowledge it provides to make the best choices I can. But the table can be confusing.  The Nutrition Facts Education Campaign (NFEC) wants to help all Canadians better understand how to use the table so they can apply their knowledge to make powerful choices in the supermarket aisles.

What is the Nutrition Facts table (NFt)?

The NFt is required by law for most packaged foods in Canada. It provides information on 13 core nutrients and calorie count, based on a listed serving size. A key feature of the NFt is the "% Daily Value," which lets you know how much of the recommended daily intake of each nutrient is found in a single serving of the product.

What do you need to keep in mind?

Many people don't realise that the serving size listed on the NFt isn't necessarily a recommendation of how much you should be eating. So, if that can of soup lists a serving size of 1 cup, think to yourself - how much will I actually eat? In the case of soup, unless you are having it as a side to a larger meal, you will likely have more than a single cup. (Please don't bring up serving sizes and bags of potato chips. I'm a lost cause there.)

Step 1 - the first thing to look at is the serving size listed, and then make any mental adjustments necessary (up or down), depending on your actual appetite. If you will actually eat 2 cups of that soup I mentioned, you will need to double any nutrition values on the NFt, as the values are based on a 1 cup serving size.

Step 2 - you need to understand what the % Daily Value means. In some cases (e.g., Vitamin C), you will likely want a higher percentage. In others (e.g., fat content), you will want a low percentage. The rule of thumb is 5% or lower is "a little" of a nutrient, and 15% or higher is "a lot." Generally speaking, you want low fat and sodium; high fibre, Calcium, Iron, Vitamin A.

Step 3 - Having said that, remember that we are all individuals. The NFt exists to allow you to make informed food choices. Keep in mind your own and your family's particular dietary needs and make decisions accordingly. Example - I have a particular condition related to low blood pressure, and I actually need more sodium in my diet than does the average person. So although 15% or 20% Daily Value of sodium may be a deal breaker for some, I know I am still within my personal safe zone. Choose foods with more of the nutrients you want, and less of the nutrients you don't.

Making the Informed Choice

Where this all really comes into play is when you are making a choice in the grocery aisles. There are so many options and brands available, and they all have different nutritional profiles. The NFt provides you with the information you need to compare similar products and choose the one that is best for you and your family. Remember to look at the serving size of each product first. If different serving sizes are being used to measure nutrients, you will need to do some math to make an accurate comparison. Sorry!

Learning More

Boo and I have worked with the NFEC folks in the past, so we've had some great opportunities to get ourselves educated on reading the Nutrition Facts table over the past couple of years. Last week we were pleased to be their guests at the Royal Winter Agricultural Fair, where they had a booth set up to introduce families to the NFt. Any chance you managed to catch them there?

Boo and I met with these three representatives of Health Canada, who were there on the Friday to share their knowledge.
Health Canada representatives were on hand to walk the public through nutrition labels, answer their questions, and then quiz them on what they learned. Correct answers won chances to play Plinko for entries into a draw for free groceries. Always up for a challenge, Boo jumped right in.

Boo, reading a Nutrition Facts table with Jenn.
He did very well on the quiz portion, which gave him plenty of opportunities to play Plinko. Honestly this kid needs a Plinko board at home. He just loves this game!

While we were able to meet and learn in person, you can head over to Focus On The Facts online. This site provides a wealth of information to help you understand the Nutrition Facts table, and convert your new knowledge into the power to make informed, healthy food choices for your family. And while you are there, you can complete a quick, 4 question quiz for your chance to win one of seven $300 grocery gift cards! You can enter daily until March 31, 2017 (see full rules & regulations).

About the NFEC

The Nutrition Facts Education Campaign: “Focus on the Facts” is a collaboration of the Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), Health Canada, Retail Council of Canada (RCC), and the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG).

A Giveaway

Thanks to the Nutrition Facts Education Campaign, I have a $100 grocery giftcard to offer one lucky RMB reader as well. Entries are via the widget below and will be accepted until 11:59pm ET, November 30. Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only, excluding Quebec. Best of luck!!

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Nutrition Facts Education Campaign. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own, or those of my family.

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