Reading Labels

In Canada, the back panels of packages are regulated and the advertisements and claims on the front are somewhat watched but the truths are still sometimes hard to glean.  From the manufacturer’s point of view, it is hard, I know.  They have to standardize some key information and do it in two languages on limited space. Let’s face it, like anything, some do it better than others.

The key issue when feeding kids is that the nutrition facts panels are not standardized.  This means that it makes it hard to compare one cereal to another or one cracker to another. Never mind help in making the decision to snack on either a cracker or a cereal.  It would be much easier if all cereals were presented in a ¾ cup portion, all crackers stated the facts for 4 crackers (which is roughly equal to one slice of bread so we could compare that too!), all salad dressings were for a reasonable 1 Tbsp portion.  This way, we could learn what constitutes a portion (‘cause we’ve got that way wrong in our culture) AND be able to compare brands.

The panels are based on a 2000 calorie per day diet and all percentages are weighed against that.  This average assumes that you are a moderately active, average sized ADULT.  A growing child would eat much less than the 2000 calories as would a dieter, elderly person or someone who is less active.

So when a package says that 1 serving of this food represents 25 % of the DV* of sodium, you need to know that is on quarter of the maximum amount that an average, healthy ADULT should consume.  For a six year old, it could be up to 50% of their daily max.  It doesn’t mean you can’t use the product but it does mean that you need to mitigate and manage HOW you use the product.

There is a new initiative from Health Canada , to guide Canadians  in how to read food labels.  It is a good place to start but we need to remember that the onus is on us to calculate and correct for smaller bodies.

In the spirit of helping you make your own at home so you can directly control the results, here is a great cookie recipe using few bowls to wash and few ingredients to gather that should be in everyone’s arsenal.  Once your child is cleared for nut allergies, almonds are a great source of protein as well as calcium, and these cookies couldn’t be easier.  Plus, it’s a “job” that any toddler will be happy to help with that provides almost instant gratification.

* DV stands for Daily Value.  The Daily Values for vitamins and minerals are based on the 1983 Recommended Nutrient Intakes for Canadians.  The Daily Values for Fat, Carbohydrate and Protein are based on a 2000 calorie reference diet.


Molasses Almond cookies

Recipe By     : Theresa Albert, DHN, RNCP

Serving Size  : 18

Preparation Time 4 minutes

2 cups  almond butter

1 cup  molasses

1 egg

1 tablespoon  whole wheat flour

Combine all ingredients well in a bowl, mixing with a fork.  Use your hands to roll into 2 inch balls and place onto a baking sheet, press with a fork. Bake at 350F for 10-14 minutes. They should be a little soft in the middle but not browning.  They will harden as they cool.