Understanding food labels

According to a Crop survey, 80% of all Quebeckers check the nutritional labels regularly or occasionally, but are they doing it right?

The same survey says that 30% of them find it difficult to understand the information written on the packaging. So I decided to tell you about the Guiding stars rating system found at Loblaws, Provigo and because 84 % of the consumers that use it say that this program encourages them to read the nutrition facts tables and helps them understand better.

Guiding stars

Let the stars guide you!

The guiding stars program helps you find the most nutritive products easily. Products have one, two or three stars (three being the best). The stars system is based on the nutrition facts’ table and the list of ingredients. Points are given for fibres, vitamins, minerals and Omega-3, while points are subtracted when the product contains saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugar.

An independent and objective program

The evaluation of each product found in grocery stores is performed by an independent and objective organization that doesn’t take prices, brands or manufacturing groups into account. Furthermore, all products are assessed except for a few exceptions. For example, infant formulas are not evaluated because breastfeeding is recommended for at least the first six months of a child’s life.

How does it work?

At the grocery store, you just have to identify the price tags that show stars. For example, in the bread aisle, instead of reading the nutrition facts on all breads, you can only compare the picture of the nutritional value and ingredients’ lists of products with three stars. Among these, you can choose according to your preferences: whole grain, organic or stoneground whole-wheat bread, for example. In other words, the Guiding Stars program gives you a first reading into the nutrition facts and ingredients’ lists. Then, you just have to choose the products that are best for you among those who got the stars, by reading their nutrition tables and lists of ingredients.

How should we read the nutrition facts table?

1st Find the reference portion

First, you must know that the manufacturer determines the portion written on the nutrition facts’ table. It is not a portion recommended by Canada’s Food Guide and does not necessarily represent your usual consumption. That reference portion will let you know the amount of food that was evaluated.

2nd Look at the percentages

The percent daily value (% DV) of a nutrient (sodium %, for example) represents the proportion of this nutrient consumed when you eat the reference portion indicated in the nutrition facts. The percent daily value (% DV) shows if a product contains a little or a lot of a nutrient.


5% DV or less is A LITTLE

15% DV or more is A LOT

3rd Choose

You can use the percent daily value (% DV) to compare two products that have a similar reference portion, or you can use it to select foods based on their nutrient content when you want to increase or decrease it in your diet.

Nutrients that should be decreased
  • Fat
  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Sodium

Nutrients that should be increased

  •  Fibres
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

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