Reading Food Labels (the “Coles Notes” version)

For the Eight Mystery of the World, we add ….. FOOD LABELS!!!

Food labels are difficult to decipher, even the nutritionists and dieticians comment about the variances between them and how tough they can be to decipher. What does it all mean?

Here’s a few quick comments, but I’ve also included some links to articles written by the professionals for you read as well.

SERVING SIZE The first thing you need to pay attention to is serving size. Some items have very small serving sizes – for example “three crackers”. If the serving size is small, and depending on what is broken down on the label, you may want to by-pass the product all together as you’ll may have a tough time sticking to the serving size and end up with too much fat or salt etc.

SALT FREE/SODIUM FREE – be cautious of foods that are labeled as sodium free, often they make up the flavour (or preservative properties) of the sodium by using POTASSIUM instead. For many heart patients, a little potassium might not be so bad. In fact, some of you may have had your dietician recommend you eat more bananas for the potassium. But if you have kidney issues along with your heart issues, you will need to be very cautious of added potassium in these items.

And remember to compare the products in the store to other brands, for example below are two cans of diced tomatoes – they both say ‘no salt added’ and you might be tempted to pick up whichever is cheaper, or whichever brand you tend to prefer, but….


When you compare labels – you will see that although they both have the same serving size (1/2 cup or 125 ml) and they both have 5 mg of sodium per serving, the Unico brand has 290 mg of Potassium and the Aylmers doesn’t have any at all! In this case the Aylmers would be a better choice for you to buy. I was very surprised to discover the difference.

Foodlabels2(These are Canadian Products)

Here are some other resources to consider: 

Hopkins Medicine – how to read food labels for a heart healthy diet

Heart Foundation – food labels

Heart and Stroke – healthy eating basics

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