Canada Food Guide Basics
Complete the quiz after you finish the tutorial.
It is important to remember that the information shown on the nutrition facts panel is based on a specific serving size of the food.
If the amount of a food that you actually eat (your serving portion) is different from the serving size shown on the package you will need to do some simple math in order to figure out how many calories, or how much protein, fat or other nutrients you will take in.
Follow these steps to do a serving size conversion:
Begin by estimating how much of the food you will eat. Estimate your portion size in terms of common household measures, such as millilitres (cups) or grams (ounces). It sometimes helps to have some visual cues to help you make an estimate. For instance, a one cup serving is about the size of a baseball.
Next, look at the serving size shown on the nutrition facts panel of the food you are considering. Read carefully and try to visualize the amount shown as the serving size.
Then, compare your own estimated serving portion to the serving size shown on the nutrition facts panel. Are they exactly the same?
If so, you will take in exactly the same amount of nutrients shown on the label.
If not, your portion size will result in you taking in more or less nutrients than shown on the label.
If your portion size is larger than the serving size on the label, you will need to multiply the amount of each nutrient on the label. For instance, if the label’s serving size on a bottle of salad dressing is 15 mL (1 Tbsp) and you plan to eat 45 mL (3 Tbsp), then you would need to multiply the amount of each nutrient by three, because you will eat three times more than the label’s serving size.
If your portion size is smaller than the serving size on the label, you will need to divide the amount of each nutrient on the label. Using the salad dressing example, if you plan to eat only 7.5 mL (½ Tbsp) rather than the 15 mL (1 Tbsp) serving shown on the label, then you would need to divide the amount of each nutrient by two, because you are eating only half of the amount shown on the label.
The following example further illustrates how to calculate your intake of a single nutrient from your serving portion of a food.
The label on your favourite brand of granola says that there are 20 grams of sugar in a 125 mL (½ cup) serving.
You love granola and sometimes eat 375 mL (1 ½ cups) for breakfast. You want to know how much sugar you actually eat when you have this larger serving size.
The question is: If there are 20 grams of sugar in 125 mL of granola, how many grams of sugar are there in a 375 mL serving?
The basic equation is this:
[Basic nutrient equation]
To answer the question, you need to do two calculations:
First, multiply the numbers that are “across” from each other (cross multiply):
20 grams of sugar X 375 mL of granola = 7500
Second, divide this answer (7500) by the remaining number (125 mL). This gives you a final value of 60.
This means that there are 60 grams of sugar in 375 mL of your favourite granola!
In addition to providing nutrition information and a list of ingredients, some labels contain nutrition claims. A nutrition claim is a way of linking the nutrients or ingredients found in a food with a health benefit.
Keep in mind that the use of nutrition claims is optional. Many highly nutritious packaged foods do not show claims on the label. Similarly, foods that are exempt from our labelling regulations – such as fresh fruits and vegetables – have long been linked to better health, yet are not always packaged in ways that permit nutrition claims.
For these reasons, do not rely solely on nutrition claims on labels when making decisions around which foods to purchase. Instead, consider the recommendations of Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, as well as your budget. Using this wider approach will help to better guide you towards healthy food choices.
Source: 1995–2013 Government of Alberta