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Reading Food Labels to Make Healthier Choices

Reading food labels

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Food labels on packaged foods and drinks show lots of information. Reading and understanding the information on these labels can help you to compare products and make healthier food choices.

You can find nutrition information in three different places on food labels:

  • Ingredient list
  • Nutrition claims
  • Nutrition Facts table​

Ingredient list

The ingredient list tells you what is in the food. It lists the ingredients by weight from most to least. The first few ingredients are those in the highest amounts. In the example below of a whole grain breakfast cereal, whole grain wheat is the first ingredient. This means that there is more whole grain wheat in the cereal than any other ingredient.

Ingredients: Whole grain wheat, Dark chocolate bits (sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla extract), Cocoa, Mixed tocopherols (to preserve freshness). Contains: Wheat, Soy.

Nutrition claims

There are two types of nutrition claims on food and drink packages:

  • Nutrient content claims: These are statements about one nutrient such as fat, salt, sodium, or fibre. For example, “50% less sodium.” This means the product has 50% less sodium (salt) than the same regular item.
  • Health claims: These are statements that describe a link between what you eat and certain health problems. For example, “A healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Nutrition Facts table

The Nutrition Fact table lists the amount of calories and other nutrients that are in the food based on a certain serving size. You can use the Nutrition Facts table to compare similar foods.

The % Daily Value (% DV)​ on the Nutrition Facts table shows you if the serving size has a little or a lot of certain nutrients. It can help you make healthier food choices.

Choose a lower % DV for nutrients you may want less of, such as:

  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fat
  • Sodium

Choose a higher % DV for nutrients yo​u may want more of, such as:

  • Fibre
  • Protein
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals​
To learn more, go to Label reading the healthy way​.


Current as of: March 7, 2022

Author: Nutrition Services, Alberta Health Services