Understanding Food Product Labels

Understanding food product labels


Over the past few decades, a wider range of affordable, packaged foods have become available. There are also more convenience foods aimed at the busy family.

In Canada, nutrition labelling laws require food companies to identify the nutrients in packaged goods in a consistent way. Food product packaging includes a wide range of information about your food: ingredients, nutrition facts and nutrition claims. When comparing and choosing between food products, it helps to understand this information so you can make better choices for you and your family.

Ingredient list

The ingredients on a food package label are listed in descending order by weight. For example, the ingredients that appear first in the list make up a greater share of the food product.

Nutrition facts table

Nutrition facts tables are required on all foods by law.

Click on the guide below to learn more about nutrition facts.

ROLL OVER  the label below to test your nutritional label literacy!

Serving sizes

The Nutrition Facts table gives information for a single serving of a food product. The serving size on the label may be smaller or larger than what you consider to be a single serving.

vegetables & fruit

1 kiwi



fresh, frozen or canned

125 ml
(1/2 cup)

1 fruit

apple, orange, peach, pear

medium sized

grain products

cold cereal

30 grams

couscous or quinoa

125 ml (1/2 cup)

cooked rice

white, wild, or brown

125 ml
(1/2 cup)

milk & alternatives


solid block

50 grams
(1 1/2 oz)


plain or flavoured

125 ml
(3/4 cup)


cottage or quark

250 ml
(1 cup)

meat & alternatives

nuts or seeds

60 mL
(1/4 cup)


150 grams (3/4 cup)



75 grams (2 1/2 oz)

Nutrition claims

Nutrition claims on packaged foods are also protected by law. They are designed to help consumers make informed decisions about food at a glance.

The Canadian government has rules about the amount of a nutrient that must be in a food before the food company can put a claim on the packaging. You can see some examples below.

Claim Required nutrients
Source o​f fibre Contains at least 2 g of fibre
Low fat Contains no more than 3 g of fat in the amount specified
Cholesterol-free Contains a negligible amount (normally less than 2 mg)
Sodium-free Contains less than 5 mg of sodium
Reduced calorie Contains 25% fewer calories than the food it is being compared to
Light Reduced in fat or calories
Original author:
Theresa Couto, RD
Reviewed by:
Elly Berger, BA, MD, FRCPC, FAAP, MHPE