Making sense of Health Canada’s new meals labelling rules

The Nutrition Facts desk.Health Canada

On June 30, Health Canada introduced new diet labelling rules that can require prepackaged meals excessive in saturated fats, sugars and/or sodium to show a front-of-package image highlighting this info.

Research from different nations has discovered that such easy-to-understand front-of-package labels can information shoppers to make more healthy meals decisions.

The front-of-package “high-in” image will complement the back-of-package Nutrition Facts desk, which has been necessary since 2007. Food producers have till January 1, 2026 to adjust to the brand new rules.

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In the meantime, the next tips will help you make sense of the Nutrition Facts desk – and apply that info to your private eating regimen.

(Note: In December 2016, Health Canada introduced enhancements to the Nutrition Facts desk and ingredient checklist, a number of of which I point out under. While these updates received’t be absolutely in impact till December 2023, many meals corporations have already utilized them to product labels.)

Check serving dimension

In order to understand how a lot protein, fibre, sugar or sodium, for instance, you’re consuming, have a look at the serving dimension and evaluate that quantity to how a lot you really eat.

Serving sizes on the up to date Nutrition Facts desk higher mirror the quantity of meals that’s sometimes eaten in a single sitting. They’re additionally extra constant throughout merchandise, making it simpler to check related meals for energy and vitamins.

Understand sugar numbers

The quantity of sugars (grams) on the Nutrition Facts desk lumps collectively free sugars and naturally-occurring sugars (e.g., lactose in milk and fructose in fruit). By doing so, the sugar info doesn’t inform you how a lot of it was added by the meals trade.

You can assume, although, that for a product that doesn’t comprise any dairy or dried fruit, the quantity of sugars listed shall be free sugars. For perspective, 4 grams of sugar is equal to at least one teaspoon value.

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Typically, a 100 g single serving of vanilla- or fruit-flavoured yogurt comprises 11 to 12 g of complete sugars. About 8 g are free sugars and the remaining is naturally-occurring lactose. For plain yogurt, all the sugar listed is pure sugar.

Free sugars are added sugars in addition to sugars naturally current in fruit juice and fruit juice concentrates. Once faraway from complete fruit, these sugars are “free” to be added to meals for sweetening functions.

Use each day worth (DV) percentages

The DV percentages, on the right-hand aspect of the Nutrition Facts desk, are helpful to get a way of how a lot of a nutrient is in a single serving of the product.

Five per cent or much less of the DV is taken into account slightly and 15 per cent or extra is taken into account lots.

A low per cent DV is an effective factor for vitamins you need to restrict (e.g., sodium, sugars). For vitamins you might need to eat extra of (e.g., fibre, potassium, calcium), search for larger DV percentages.

Daily values are primarily based on really helpful each day intakes, that are age- and gender-specific each day nutrient necessities. For saturated fats, trans fats and sodium, take into account these DVs as higher consumption limits.

The DV for complete sugars has been set at 100 g, an quantity that’s according to a nutritious diet the place a lot of the complete sugars come from fruits, greens and unsweetened dairy.

Read the ingredient checklist

Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. The first or heaviest ingredient is what the product comprises essentially the most of.

The ingredient checklist has been up to date so that every one free sugar substances are grouped collectively below the frequent identify “Sugars”. The placement of Sugars within the ingredient checklist will rely on the overall weight of the mixed sugar substances.

The checklist of substances provides an general sense of a product’s dietary high quality. Ideally, select merchandise that checklist complete meals as the primary three substances.

Don’t be fooled by substances that sound more healthy than they’re similar to wheat flour (refined white flour), fruit juice focus (a free sugar) and brown rice syrup (a free sugar).

Think large image

The Nutrition Facts field and substances checklist present helpful info that can assist you make more healthy meals decisions, however don’t get too slowed down with sure numbers or percentages.

Consider the general dietary high quality of meals merchandise, too, particularly for ones which are a part of your common eating regimen.

Just as a result of one product has fewer energy or carbohydrates, for instance, doesn’t imply that it’s a great supply of useful vitamins or that it doesn’t comprise undesirable substances.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based personal apply dietitian, is director of meals and diet at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD

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