Reading a jar label

Reading nutrition labels

Use nutrition labels to help guide your food choices and eat healthy.

The facts on nutrition facts

The nutrition facts table contains the amount of calories and nutrients in a serving of food or drink.

The facts on nutrition facts


Adapted from Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 2018.


Suggested serving size

All the information in the nutrition facts table is based on this amount to help you:

  • Understand how much of a nutrient you are eating
  • Compare calories and nutrients between 2 similar packaged food products
  • Compare it to the amount you actually eat


  • Amount of energy in 1 serving; carbohydrates, fat and protein all contribute to calories
  • If you eat more than the serving size, your calorie intake will be higher than the value listed
  • If you eat less than the serving size, your calorie intake will be lower than the value listed

% Daily Value (% DV)

  • Shows you if the serving size has a little or a lot of a nutrient: 5% DV or less is a little, 15% DV or more is a lot
  • Use % DV to compare 2 different food products to help you decide which option gives you a higher % DV of nutrients you want more of and a lower % DV of nutrients for which you want less

Fat, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol

  • Choose foods with less of these, as saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol are not good for your health


  • Choose foods that keep you within your recommended daily intake:
Age (years) Recommended daily intake (mg)
1–3 1,000
4–8 1,200
9–13 1,500
14–50 1,500
51–70 1,300
71+ 1,200

Carbohydrate (fibre and sugars)

  • Choose foods with more fibre and less added sugars
  • Fibre does not raise blood sugar and should be subtracted from the total carbs (i.e., 26 g carbohydrate – 7 g fibre = 19 g available carbs)


  • There is no % DV for protein in the nutrition facts table because most people get enough protein
  • Choose these as your proteins:
    • Skinless or lean cuts of meat
    • Beans and lentils
    • Fish such as salmon, sardines and trout
    • Lower fat milk products

Vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron

  • Choose foods that have higher % DV of these nutrients
  • Spices, seasonings, herbs, natural and artificial flavours, flavour enhancers, food additives, vitamins and minerals are included – in no specific order – at the end of an ingredient list

Friendly tip:

In Canada, by law, packaged food must be labelled with a nutrition facts table and an ingredient list.

Nutrition claims

Nutrition labels can also include 2 types of optional claims that focus on specific nutrients in a food or drink:


Nutrient content claims

Nutrition Content Claims: 20% Daily Value of VITAMIN D made with whole grain and Source of Fibre

Health Claims

Health Claims: Can help reduce the risk of heart disease*.

Nutrient content claims highlight the amount of a nutrient in a food or drink. See the table below for more information on a nutrient content claim:

Keywords What it means Nutrients used with
  • Free
  • No
  • 0
  • Zero
  • Without
Provides an amount of a nutrient that is so small it likely won't have any effect on your body
  • Calories
  • Sodium
  • Fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sugars
  • Low
  • Little
  • Few
Provides a very small amount of the nutrient
  • Calories
  • Fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Protein
  • Reduced
  • Less
  • Lower
  • Lower in
  • Fewer
Processed/modified so that it contains at least 25% less of the nutrient when compared with a similar product
  • Calories
  • Fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fatty acids
  • Sodium
  • Sugars
  • Lightly
Provides at least 50% less of the added nutrient
  • Sodium
  • No added
  • Without added
Has none of the nutrient added to it
  • Fat
  • Sugar
  • Sodium
  • Source contains
Provides a significant amount of the nutrient
  • Calories
  • Protein
  • Omega-3
  • Omega-6
  • Fibre
  • Vitamins/minerals
  • More
  • Higher
  • Higher in
At least 25% more of a nutrient compared with a similar product
  • Calories
  • Fibre
  • Protein
  • Good source of
At least 15% of the recommended daily intake
  • Vitamins/minerals
  • High in
  • High source of
The food contains at least 4 g of fibre
  • Fibre
  • Excellent source
  • Very high
  • Very high in
  • Very high source
  • Rich
  • Rich in
The food provides a very large amount of the nutrient
  • Protein
  • Fibre
  • Vitamins/minerals
  • Light
Processed/modified so that it contains at least 25% less of the nutrient when compared with a similar product
  • Calories
  • Fat
  • Lean
Contains 10% or less fat
  • Fat
  • Extra lean
Contains 7.5% or less fat
  • Fat

Health claims highlight the benefits of specific food products on certain conditions and/or diseases; they appear with nutrient content claims on food packaging.

Below are 2 examples of health claims you may see on your foods and drinks:

“Une alimentation saine à base d'aliments riches en potassium et faibles en sodium peut réduire le risque d'hypertension, un facteur de risque d'AVC et de maladie cardiaque.”

“Une alimentation riche en fruits et légumes variés peut aider à réduire le risque de maladie cardiaque.”

Helpful tips for smarter food selection


Compare and contrast nutrition facts.

Start with serving size and work your way to number of calories and % Daily Value of both products. Compare these values to make an informed decision on what you’ll be eating or drinking.


Pay attention to % DV.

Select food and drinks with a high % DV of nutrients like calcium, fibre, iron, and vitamin A and a low % DV of carbohydrates, saturated/trans fat and sodium.


Pore over ingredient lists.

Remove items with high amounts of the ingredients you’re trying to avoid based on allergies, intolerances or other dietary objectives. In addition, try to be mindful of the   “3 S” ingredients:

  • Sugar (i.e., corn syrup, honey, evaporated cane juice, sucrose, glucose, fructose, galactose, etc.)
  • Sodium (i.e., salt, brine, baking soda, etc.)
  • Saturated fat (i.e., beef fat, butter, lard, palm oil, etc.)

TIP: An ingredient ending in “-ose” is usually sugar.


Be a nutrition claim nerd.

Look for keywords, such as “high in,” “excellent source of,” “low” or “reduced.” Stock up on foods and drinks that are high in the nutrients you need (i.e., vitamins, minerals, fibre) and low in the nutrients you don’t (i.e., saturated/trans fats, sodium, excessive carbohydrates).


Watch out for general health claims.

General health claims such as “healthy for you” or “healthy choice” are made by third parties or corporations. Refer to the nutrition facts table to make informed food selections.

Be cart smart
Personne et panier d'épicerie

Shopping smarter

Could your “grocery haul” use an “overhaul”? Get some quick tips on how to shop smarter for healthier eats.

Information presented within Cart2Table is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional.

Cart2Table has been reviewed and approved by Registered Dietitian Caroline Leblanc and Certified Diabetes Educator Naomi Orzech.