The Nutrition Facts table

Example of Nutrition Facts table  for recipe
Spinach Pasta with Ham and Peas

Tableau de valeur nutritive

In its regulations concerning nutrition labelling on prepackaged foods, Health Canada requires that the quantities of 13 nutrients be indicated, besides of course, the number of calories. This information should always appear in the same order on all food packaging. This list may also indicate vitamins and minerals, which are added for enrichment or even for making a nutritional claim.

To make it easier for its members, SOSCuisine has decided to present the nutrient information of its recipes, meals and meal plans for the week using the same format as the Nutrition Facts table.

  • For the recipes, the table gives the quantities of the nutrients per proposed serving. If the serving that you actually eat is smaller or larger than the proposed serving, the intake quantities of the nutrients will be less or more in the same proportion. You will also notice that the quantities of nutrients may vary slightly depending on the number of servings selected for the recipe, because they are calculated from the exact quantities of the ingredients, which do not necessarily vary in direct proportion to the number of servings;
  • For the meal, the table gives the quantities of nutrients for the entire meal, which are calculated by adding the quantities of nutrients per serving of the different recipes making up the meal. This allows you to make an overall estimate of the amount of one or more nutrients in the whole meal;
  • For the meal plans of the week, the table gives the average quantities of nutrients per meal, which are obtained by calculating the average over 5 days, of the quantities of nutrients per serving of the different recipes making up the meal plan. This allows you to make an overall estimate of the average amount per meal of one or more nutrients.

Daily Value ("DV")

Health Canada has decided to express the nutrition facts in percentage because this is a common way of quantifying things in our society. In this way, the consumer can know at a glance, if the selected food contains a lot or a little of a specified nutrient. Therefore, he/she does not need to know his specific nutritional requirements in order to make an informed choice.

How does one determine the Percentage of the Daily Value (%DV)?

The daily values used for nutrition labelling are taken from guidelines for healthy eating. The % of Daily Value helps in quickly assessing a product because the reference scale is standardized to 100%. It also makes comparisons between recipes and similar products easier. The aim being that anyone and everyone can use this information as a yardstick, whether their individual needs be higher or lower than the % Daily Value.

For carbohydrates, lipids and proteins, Health Canada has considered the consumption of 2000 calories per day to be an average representative value. This is in fact suitable for a moderately active woman of average height and, for a sedentary man of average height as well as for a teenager who spends all his/her free time in front of the computer. If you are taller or smaller, more or less active, you should use these data as being slightly higher or lower than your requirements.

As far as vitamins and minerals are concerned, the % DV corresponds to the highest quantity recommended for all age groups of both sexes, excluding pregnant and breast-feeding women.

  • The amount of lipids, saturated fats, trans fatty acids, carbohydrates and fibres is expressed in weight (grams or milligrams) and in percentage of the Daily Value (% DV).
  • For cholesterol, the % DV is optional, but the amount in grams must be stated.
  • The content of vitamins and minerals is given only in % DV, except for sodium and potassium.
  • There is no % DV for proteins because their intake is considered to be sufficient in Canada and they do not pose any identified public health problem.
  • There is no % DV for sugars, as there is no specific guideline has been adopted.

Some clarifications

How to ‘sort out’ the fat quantity?

Let’s take the example of lipids, commonly called fats. Health Canada recommends that 30% of the total calories absorbed should come from total fat, that is to say, all fat kinds taken together (saturated, insaturated and trans). For an average intake of 2000 calories per day, it corresponds to 65 grams of total fat in a day, or 100% of Daily Value for total fat. In our recipe Spinach Pasta with Ham and Peas (see table above), there are 16 g of fat per serving, or 25% of the corresponding DV. This means that one serving of this dish provides a quarter of the quantity of total fat recommended per day, which is acceptable for a main dish.

Saturated fats can be damaging for the heart. It is therefore recommended that the calories from saturated fats should not exceed one-third of the calories from the total fat absorbed during the day, i.e. 22 g (one third of 65 g). This 22g thus corresponds to 100% of the DV of saturated fats, once again on the basis of an average intake of 2000 calories per day. In our recipe for Spinach Pasta with Ham and Peas, there are 9 g of saturated fat per serving, or 46% of the corresponding DV. One must keep this in mind while making the other food choices for the day, so that the quantity of saturated fat is not too much. Here, cream is the main source of the saturated fat. Using 15%-rich cream instead of 35%-rich cream would reduce the amount of total saturated fats of this recipe by 6 g.

Where do the figures of the nutrition facts table come from?

This is what we will discuss next week in our column "An indicative information source"

To learn more:

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