Understanding Food Labels

Labels are critical to help you keep track of your things. The same is true of the food labels that appear on every package in North America. And there are certain standards that must be followed by law.

There are also private systems that have been designed which may contribute to “nutrition confusion”.  The Health Check System in Canada, which is a Heart and Stroke Foundation system, comes to mind as one that hasn’t lived up to rigorous enough standards.

In the US, there is the Hannaford Guiding Stars System which is now implemented in Loblaws stores in Canada. These are “quick peek” and one, two, three star systems that identify the healthier products on store shelves.  Each product is given an algorithmic rating by a third-party panel of experts. Points are weighted according to the presence of positive attributes (like protein and fibre) and the absence of negative (white sugar, flour, salt, fat…). It’s a great quick glance to help you pick up the best in class.

Once you get your products home, take the time to actually read the label and focus on:

  • The ingredient list.  The first three items should be real, whole foods and the list should be as short as possible and completely recognizable.
  • The serving size.  Be sure you know the serving size is not the recommended amount that you should eat but that it is a reference number upon which everything else rests.
  • % of Daily Value. The number chosen is for a 2000 calorie per day diet which represents an average.  And you are not average.  So much can affect how many calories are right for you.  Be sure that you know how many calories are right for you because your number could be higher or lower.
  • Slippery Sodium. Health Canada estimates that 88% of our salt intake comes from packaged foods so simply putting away the salt shaker isn’t the best solution. Packages contain a “% Daily Value” amount that is too high, so it obscures the facts.  Most health care professionals recommend around 1500 mg per day as a maximum.  Nutrition labels allow 2400 mg per day (because the Canadian average is around 3300). Be sure that this is a percentage that you stay well below. There are ways to reduce your sodium , but in the meantime, read every package, add up your sources for a day and do not go above 75% of the “% DV”.
  • There are only 13 “important nutrients” that must be listed on a label. But of course, a healthy diet contains much, much more.  If a piece of fruit listed all of its nutrients, the label would wrap around it many times over.

Most of your nutrients will actually be coming from whole foods…Be sure that this is also where most of your calories come from and you will be right on track.

About the Author

Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert is a Food Communications Specialist and Toronto Personal Nutritionist. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at www.myfriendinfood.com

Why your kids should curl

Guest Post by: Simon Barrick

“You curl? That’s neat, my grandpa used to curl.”

I cannot begin to tell you how many times people have responded with this line when they discovered that I curl. But let’s face it; the curling stereotype involves images of elderly men in knitted sweaters, donning funny headgear (tams), with a cigarette in one hand and a pint of beer in the other. Oh, and they may also be sliding a granite stone down the ice while sweeping with those peculiar brooms. Not to mention yelling. Lots and lots of yelling.

No wonder people think this sport isn’t for kids.

But this stereotype is no longer reality. With curling being a Winter Olympic sport since the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, curling has undergone quite the transformation. For proof of this change, you only have to turn on your television over the next few months to see young and fit men and women playing the sport and playing it well. So much for that grandpa stereotype.

And as a 20-something male curler, I’m further proof that this sport is as much for young people as hockey, soccer, or swimming. At the ripe old age of eight, I watched my first game of curling on television and thought, “that would be cool to try!” So I convinced my dad to take my sister and me to the local curling club to throw our first rocks at houses. And the rest, they say, is history.

If you’re interested, but not quite sure yet – let me convince you even further. Here are the top nine reasons why you should sign your children up for this great sport:

9. Curling builds important life skills including sportsmanship, fair play, teamwork, and social interactions – things all young people need.

8. It’s an affordable sport. Let’s be honest – most sports can cost you a ton of money. Fortunately, curling offers families an affordable alternative. Between fees and curling equipment (which are provided by your local curling club for beginners), a full season of curling (October to April) only costs between $50 and $150 per youth!

7. Curling clubs are welcoming spaces. Ask any young person who curls and they will tell you that the curling club feels like their second home.

6. Curling is also an accessible and inclusive sport. People with physical, mental, visual, and auditory disabilities all curl (and curl well!) There are also provincial events, such as Special Olympics curling. So, no matter your kids’ ability level and needs, curling can accommodate.

5. Curling is a very strategic and cerebral sport (described by many as chess-on-ice.) If you’re looking for a different kind of sport, then curling is your answer.

4. Curling is an extremely social sport. Coaches and instructors teach young curlers to compliment their opponents when they make a nice shot and to stay after the game and socialize. Many of my closest and dearest friends are curlers whom I’ve met over the years.

3. If your kids are competitive, they have plenty of opportunities to enter competitions (bonspiels) to represent their club, province, and even country! An Olympic gold medal has a nice ring to it, right?

2. If competition isn’t for your kids, then don’t sweat it. Curling clubs consist of weekly social leagues where your kids can play with and against great people, have a blast, and foster some outstanding friendships.

1. You can curl for your entire life, no problem! There aren’t many sports where you can register your child at five years of age and they’re still curling when they hit the ripe old age of 100. Curling is truly a life-long sport.

Hopefully I’ve been able to convince you (even a little) to register your children in curling. If so, please take my final advice: just do it! Head down to your local curling club now. Curlers love to introduce new people to the sport. I guarantee that once you enter the door, some eager volunteers will slap some tape on the bottom of your kids’ running shoes and have them out on the ice before you know it.

Looking forward to seeing you and your kids in the curling club soon.

What I Learned About My Kids on Instagram

For all you social media types, I have to admit I was a little late to the party when it came to Instagram. For those who don’t know what Instagram is, it’s basically like Twitter but with photos – and it’s a favourite social networking site for teens and tweens. Think “selfies” – there is no lack of them on Instagram.

My biggie kids have had Instagram for a while, and although I’d pop on their accounts occasionally and make sure everything they were posting was above board, I mostly left them to their own devices. They’re pretty sensible kids and if something even a little bit sketchy went down, I’m the first person they would tell.

Last week I joined Instagram and learned a few interesting things about my biggie-sized kiddos:

They do weird things together and take pictures of it. In this picture on one of my kiddo’s accounts, I discovered that they like to cover their brother with nuts and let chipmunks eat off his face.

They love their siblings. One daughter posted this photo of her brother when he was on TV sharing his experience with autism. Her comment “awesome job Mack!”

And just when you think they only see their little brothers as annoyances, you find this picture on Instagram with the caption “my brothers are the cutest hockey players ever”.

As much as they love each other, they may love the dog more. One kid has about 60 posts. I’d say about 55 of them are of the dog. Not a human in sight.

They like their parents too, and aren’t afraid to share that with their friends. In this post, my daughter wrote “mommy and me time”.

And this post I found speaks for itself:

Do you have any kiddos on social media?  Have you discovered any surprises – good or bad, when you connected with them online?

About the Author:

Julie Cole Mabel's Labels

Julie Cole

Julie Cole is co-founder of Mabel’s Labels Inc., the leading provider of kids’ labels, and a proud mom of six.

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