The health conscious shopper has to be able separate the hype from the health of food products on grocery shelves.  Healthy sounding brand names must be ignored in favour of reading the Nutrition Facts and Ingredient list. But, this is not a skill taught in any public school.  Into this void, I bring you a nutritionist course in Label Reading.  The curriculum includes:  1. Where are the calories hiding?  2. Fats: good and bad, 3. Balancing sodium and potassium  4.  How much sugar are in “sugars.”  5. AKA’s for refined grains 6.  Additives to avoid


  1. On the Nutrition Facts, the calories, fats, carbohydrates and proteins are provided in Grams and Daily Value percentage.  The percentage relates to recommended daily intake of the nutrient. Since daily requirements vary widely from person to person depending on their health status, size and activity level, this number is somewhat meaningless.  Focus on the grams only and be aware of optimal quantities of specific nutrients you should be consuming.  
  2. Fat content includes Saturated Fats and Trans Fats.  In Canada, a food can contain trans fats (up to .2 g) without having to be listed on the label.  To ensure there are NO trans fats, check the Ingredients to ensure there are no hydrogenated oils or shortenings.
  3. Sodium content is important to people with heart and circulation problems.  But if there is an equal or greater level of potassium, this provides a balance to the sodium that can reduce the negative health effects of sodium.
  4. “Sugars” are listed on Nutrition Facts – this refers to carbohydrates, not all of which are desirable.  So it is important to know the source of “sugars” on the ingredient list and avoid foods with white sugar and other simple sugars.     
  5. Refined grains are a common problem with packaged foods.  Ingredients may sound like whole grains but are actually refined, such as: “unbleached wheat flour”, “wheat flour” and “enriched wheat flour.”  
  6. Preservatives, artificial flavor and color have negative health effects but are commonly found in packaged foods.  If you don’t know what the word means, it is likely a chemical that should be avoided.