Regular readers know that I’m pretty health conscious, especially when it comes to food choices. It’s very important to me to provide healthy, nutritious meals for my family full of good things like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and at the same time minimize sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats. With food allergies and sensitivities in the family, I have to be extra conscientious about the foods and products I buy.
The best way to do all that? By reading through all the ingredients and checking the Nutrition Facts tables on every packaged food item I buy.
Last week, Tee and I joined a group of fellow bloggers and their kids at Save On Foods for a special Focus on the Facts event, hosted by Kristina Matisic from The Shopping Bags. It might be a little off topic, but I have to say Kristina was just so approachable and friendly, especially with the kids. She’s good people!
Anyway, our mission was to learn how best to use the Nutrition Facts table found on every packaged food in Canada, and then to share that with our readers!
All the info you need to make informed food choices is right there on the label. When you’re grocery shopping, you can easily compare the Nutrition Facts tables on two or more products to choose the item with the best nutritional profile to suit your family’s needs. Just follow these three easy steps:
- Step 1: Start with the serving size to make sure you’re comparing equal amounts.
- Step 2: Use the % Daily Value. A simple rule of thumb is that less than 5% DV is considered a little, more than 15% DV is a lot.
- Step 3: Look at a nutrient. Look for foods high in protein, fiber, vitamin A, calcium, and iron, and foods low in sugar, sodium, and trans fats.
While at the Focus on the Facts event, we formed blogger teams and went hunting for products to compare so we could all familiarize ourselves with the three steps. The regular shoppers looked a bit baffled as our unwieldy group of four adults and a passel of kids roamed up and down the aisles discussing which cereals and pasta sauces to take back, but we were on a fact finding mission!
We brought back our finds and took turns filling in the giant Nutrition Facts boards. Then we went through the steps.
In our example above,
- The serving sizes were both 3/4 cups which made things easy to compare.
- We checked the % Daily Values for key nutrients like fat, sodium, sugar, protein, and iron.
- We determined that the Cheerios had more fat than the Nature’s Path cereal, but at only 6% Daily Value it was well below our 15% “high” threshold. Sodium was comparable at 7% and 9%. The Cheerios had twice as much sugar (hmm) and the same amount of protein (low for both), but the biggest difference was in the % Daily Value for iron. The Nature’s Path cereal contained a low 2% Daily Value, compared to the Cheerios with a whopping 30%.
I loved that this was a family event with the kids just as involved as the adults. As parents, it’s our job to prepare our kids for independence, and part of that is teaching them how to make healthy food choices. Getting kids used to reading the Nutrition Facts table is a fantastic start!
In fact, as soon we got home from Focus on the Facts, Tee immediately raided the pantry for items on which to practice reading the Nutrition Facts tables (with her Sherlock hat and magnifying glass of course).
And when we went grocery shopping this weekend, Tee was excited about being given the responsibility of comparing the Nutrition Facts tables on soup and chicken stock and telling me which items had the least sodium. The next time you go grocery shopping, put your kids to some detective work too!
Visit the Nutrition Facts webpage to learn more and test your knowledge daily for a chance to win a $300 grocery card!
Disclosure: This conversation was sponsored by Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), Health Canada, Retail Council of Canada (RCC), and the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG). Nevertheless, all opinions expressed are completely honest and my own, based on my personal experience. Your experience may differ.