March is nutrition month and an ideal time to learn how you can make healthier choices at the grocery store.

One of the best ways to make informed food decisions is to use nutrition labelling to your advantage.

Registered dietitian and author of Solutions for Health, Phyllis Reid–Jarvis, breaks down the Nutrition Facts table into three simple steps that will help you get comfortable reading nutrition labels.

1. Consider the serving size

At the very top of the Nutrition Facts table you will find the serving size that the nutritional information is based on. Reid–Jarvis recommends you “compare the serving size to the amount that you actually eat,” as many products list information for the minimum serving possible. “Juice for example, normally lists its information based on a 250-millilitre serving when in reality, you probably serve yourself more than that amount in one glass,” she said.

2. % Daily Value (%DV)

The %DV refers to the daily value of an amount of food. “It is reflective how much of a particular nutrient a food item gives us per portion,” said Reid-Jarvis, adding that the amount is provided as a percentage that ranks nutrients on a scale of zero to 100 per cent.
She recommended using Health Canada’s percentages as a guideline. Five per cent or less is considered a small amount of a nutrient and more than 15 per cent of a nutrient in a serving is considered a lot.

3. Nutrients

Reid-Jarvis recommended limiting your intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium. Instead, she said, “look for food that will increase your intake of fibre, Vitamin A and Vitamin C, calcium and iron.”

It is mandatory for all food companies to include nutrition labelling on pre-packaged foods. It is printed for your benefit and taking the time to read and compare labels will hopefully lead to making better food choices.