When you make your grocery list and head out to the store, what are you focusing on? Is it the price of the food, the menu you created or the nutritional content of the items on your list? Perhaps it is all of the above. If nutrition isn’t on your radar, it’s time to take a closer look.
Did you know that many canned beans are high in sugar? How much sodium do you think a veggie burger contains? Does your milk have added nutrients? You don’t have to wonder about these things because most of your food items have the nutritional content printed right on the label.
Nutrition labels are the most valuable tool you can find in the grocery store. They are more important than coupons or sample tables and taking the time to read each one can make a huge impact on your family’s health. One of the first things that I always check on a nutrition label is the serving size. In North America we have been slowly increasing our serving sizes to an unreasonable amount. In some cases we could be eating two or three times the recommended portion size. I know that my teenage son’s cereal bowl is not ½ or ¾ of a cup like most cereal labels recommend. In the case of my son, it’s okay for him to start his day with a larger breakfast, but it is important that he understands what he is eating and exactly how much is considered acceptable. Is he tripling the portion size of a cereal that is high in sugar, or a cereal with a high fibre content? I certainly don’t want him heading to school full of empty calories, so we read the labels and make choices accordingly.
My sample cereal A suggests a serving size of ½ cup. In that half cup of cereal you are getting 2% of your daily recommended calcium and 30% of the daily recommended iron. Cereal B uses ¾ cup for a serving size and also has 2% of the daily recommended calcium. It has 35% of the daily recommended iron. Cereal A has 2 grams more sugar per serving than cereal B, even though the serving size is smaller. Given this information, I would choose cereal B. However, neither cereal contains a significant amount of vitamins and minerals, aside from iron.
Any percent daily value under 5% is considered a small amount, and 15% or more is a lot. It is a good idea to look for food items that have a high daily value of things that you want like fibre and calcium, and a lower daily value of unhealthy things like trans fats and sodium. As someone who follows a low sugar diet, I carefully review the amount of carbohydrates and fibre in all of my food.
You can learn more about nutritional labels and how to use them at Canada.ca/NutritionFacts, and while you are there be sure to take the quiz and get entered to win a $300 grocery card. You can also win a $100 Walmart gift card right here.