How Does My Nutrition Affect My Risk?


Portion Size Versus Serving Size

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Portion size is the total amount of food consumed for one meal or snack. When you start a weight-loss program or an eating plan to reduce or control your blood pressure, blood sugar, or cholesterol, it is important to understand how much you should eat for a given meal or snack. Portions people serve at home and in restaurants are typically three to four times larger than recommended.

Serving size is the standard amount of a particular food recommended by Canada’s Food Guide. For example, a typical restaurant portion of pasta is a three-cup serving. According to Canada’s Food Guide, this is equivalent to six servings of grains. Understanding recommended servings is key to portion control.

Reading the Nutrition Label

All prepackaged foods have a nutrition label that provides information about the product.

If you want to know the nutritional value of the food you’re about to buy, read the nutrition label. When seeking out heart-healthy products, look for labels that indicate low levels of saturated and total fat (3 g or less), cholesterol (20 mg or less), sodium (140 mg or less), and sugar, but higher amounts of fibre and vitamins and minerals.

Step 1 – Look at the Serving Size

Nutrition facts are based on a specific quantity of food. Always compare the serving size on the package to the amount that you actually eat. The label will list the nutrients according to the serving, not the package.

Step 2 – Look at the Nutrients and the Percent of Daily Value (% DV)

The percent of daily value puts nutrients on a scale from 0% to 100%. You need a certain recommended daily level of each nutrient. This scale tells you what percentage of your daily value a nutrient provides, usually in terms of a single serving. For example, if the label shows 10% for calcium, you’re getting 10% of your daily calcium from a single serving. The percent of daily value is based on a 2,000 calorie eating plan. You can make these assumptions about the percent of daily value on labels:

  • 5% or less is a small amount
  • 15% or more is a large amount
  • Consume higher % DV of fibre, vitamin A, calcium, and iron
  • Consume smaller % DV of fat, saturated and trans fat, and sodium

Step 3 – Look at the Ingredient List

Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. This establishes the general makeup of the product. When reading the ingredient list, be sure to choose foods with labels that put:

  • Salt or sodium and fat near the bottom
  • High-fibre ingredients and whole grains (whole wheat, oats, rye, millet, quinoa, barley) at the beginning
  • Sugar (honey, molasses, dextrin, syrup) last