Home - Moms in Motion - Nutrition and Pregnancy Winnipeg, Manitoba

Class Four

Label Reading & Menu Planning

Why do you think it is important to know how to read a food label?

Being able to read a food label will allow you to:

  • Choose products more easily
  • Compare two products to make better food choices for you and your family
  • Learn about the nutrition information of the foods you eat
  • Increase or decrease the intake of specific nutrients you may need
  • Make healthy food choices which will reduce your risk of certain chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers

There are three components to a food label: The nutrition facts table, ingredient list, and nutrition claims.




Nutrition fact table


The nutrition facts table gives you information about calories, 13 core nutrients, and % Daily Value (% DV) of nutrients

1. Serving Size

This is where you will find the serving size, or amount of food. All of the information in the Nutrition Facts table is based on this amount of food.  It is always listed in the same spot, and usually will have two different types of measurements, for example, 2 slices of bread, 1 cup of soup, etc.  If you want to have two servings of a particular food product, you need to multiply all of the numbers on the Nutrition Facts Table by two, as you are eating twice as much.  The Serving Size is also useful in comparing food products.

NOTE: the serving size is not the suggested amount of food you should eat; it is simply a reference amount.

2. Calories

The calories listed in the nutrition facts are based on amount of food.  If you eat more than the amount of food, your calorie intake will be higher than the value listed.  If you eat less than the amount of food, your calorie intake will be lower than the value listed.

3. Limit these nutrients

Highlighted in yellow are three nutrients you want to limit: Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium.

4. Aim to get enough of these nutrients

Dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron are areas on the nutrition fact table that you want to have higher numbers.  These are nutrients you want to have increased consumption of in your diet.

5. Footnotes

This area is where you will find information on core nutrients found in the food product.

6. % Daily Value (%DV)

The % Daily Value can help you make informed food choices.  It provides a quick overview of the nutrient profile of a food.  As a rule of thumb, aim for the % DV of all nutrients on the food label to be between 5% and 15%.

Nutrients you may want more of, include:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Fibre
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C

Nutrients you may want less of are:

  • Fat
  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Sodium


Menu Planning

Planning meals helps to:

  • Eat well by varying food choices throughout the day and week;
  • Save time by planning and shopping ahead and reducing trips to the grocery store; and
  • Get meals on the table faster and easier, with little stress (especially when you have a new baby)

Meal planning can be done once or twice a week at the same time you are writing out your shopping list.  The more you plan the easier it gets.  A little planning goes a long way in helping you have healthy eating habits.

Tips to help plan meals:

  1. Menu Plan – use a piece of paper, calendar or menu planner to jot down meal ideas
  2. Grocery List – write down the foods you need for the next few days or week
  3. Go Shopping – buy the foods you need on your grocery list
  4. Start cooking – post your meal plan on the fridge so whoever gets home first can start the meal

You can try and involve children or other family member in the planning and preparation of meals.  They’ll appreciate the meal more and learn important life skills.  Use Canada’s Food Guide to help meet the checklist below and make it easier to plan healthy, well rounded meals for your family.

Meal planning checklist:

  • Eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day
  • Choose vegetables and fruit with little or no added fat, sugar or salt
  • Have vegetables and fruit more often than juice
  • Make at least half your grain products whole grain each day
  • Choose grain products that are lower in fat, sugar and salt
  • Drink skim, 1% or 2% milk each day. Drink a fortified soy beverage is you do not drink milk
  • Select lower fat milk alternatives
  • Have meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu often
  • Choose at least two food guide servings of fish each week
  • Select lean meat and alternatives prepared with little or no added fat or salt
  • Include a small amount of unsaturated fat each day
  • Satisfy your thirst with water rather than juice or pop