Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Do you know how to read food labels?

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Myth 39: Reading food labels is too hard.
What Dietitians of Canada says:
“Reading food labels is easy when you know what to look for… Check the serving size and the % Daily Value (%DV) to choose healthier foods. Follow there three steps:
1. Check the serving size and compare this to the amount you actually eat.
2. Read the %DV to see if a product has a little or a lot of a nutrient; 5 percent or less is a little, and 15 percent or more isa lot.
3. Choose the products with more vitamins, minerals and fibre, and less fat (saturated and trans), sodium and sugar.
What I say:
Reading food labels can be difficult and confusing. As someone with a degree in nutrition I still make mistakes sometimes when label reading. There have been times when I’ve been so focussed on certain nutrients on the label that I’ve completely neglected to look at another, so I’ve gotten home only to realise that my low-sodium, low-sugar yoghurt (for example) has quite a bit of saturated and trans-fat. Oops! I think that if the myth had been worded: “Reading food labels is hard” then it would be difficult to dispute. Yes, it’s hard, and time consuming, but it is doable. To ease the burden of label reading I recommend purchasing as many food items as possible that don’t necessitate label reading (i.e. fresh vegetables and fruits). Food label reading can be difficult but it’s worth it to take the time to make the healthiest choices. Just remember, once you’ve found a good choice, products can be reformulated so you should still check the label periodically. One of the most important points DC makes is to check the serving size. We often eat considerably more than the food label uses as their serving size. Yes, this makes label reading even more difficult as you’ll now need to do some rough multiplication to figure how much of each nutrient you’re actually consuming in a serving but it’s important to realise the difference between what a label-sized serving is and what you actually eat.
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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

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