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Our food philosophy series | What’s in your food?

Principle #7 of our eight-part food philosophy: We are transparent about our food preparation methods, ingredients, nutritional content and food sourcing

Bunch of different types of fresh grapes

Today, more than ever, there’s an increased demand for information about food. People want to know what’s in their food, how it’s produced and where it comes from in order to make informed food buying decisions that are in line with their personal values.

Aging baby boomers, for example, are focused on nutritional content and seek out nutritional labels and ingredients lists to find out how a particular food can enhance health or performance. Millennials, on the other hand, are increasingly focused on environmental issues such as the impacts of agriculture and food processing on the environment, excessive packaging and food waste.

Transparency: An essential ingredient for a healthy, sustainable diet

At Medcan we are committed to informing you what’s in our food, how it’s made and where our ingredients come from.  We provide complete nutrition and ingredient information for all of our food offerings, whether it’s breakfast served during the annual health assessment, one of our delicious Nourish salads or bowls available at our retail kiosk on the 14th floor, or a menu item on our corporate catering menu.

Medcan’s Nourish retail meals and snacks all meet Health Canada labelling requirements. Each and every item carries an updated Nutrition Facts table, a full ingredient list and a food allergen statement.

Being fully and authentically transparent about what’s in our food is what differentiates Medcan from many of its competitors. While there are many outlets serving healthy-sounding and healthy-looking take-away meals, there’s no way to know how many calories, how much protein or how many milligrams of sodium, for instance, you’re consuming without a nutrition label and ingredient list.

Label reading lessons

To help you make sense of nutrition labels – and apply them to your diet at home and away – the following four tips will help you avoid common label-reading blunders.

Check serving size. The only way to know how much fat, sugar, sodium or fibre you’re consuming is to compare the serving size listed on the label with the amount you actually eat.  Don’t assume that one package of food is one serving. Figure out how much you eat and then do the math.

Use sugar numbers appropriately.  Keep in mind that the grams of sugars on a nutrition label include refined sugars added during processing (e.g., corn syrup, glucose-fructose, dextrose, agave, fruit juice concentrate, honey, etc.) as well as naturally-occurring sugars in milk (e.g., lactose) and fruit (e.g., fructose). That’s why you’ll see 5 or 6 g of sugar listed for a serving of plain yogurt or 13 g for a serving of skim milk – it’s lactose, not added sugar.

To scope out added sugars – the kind you want to limit – read ingredient lists. To help you quickly find the sources of added sugars in a food, Health Canada’s updated nutrition labels, announced December 2016, group added sugars in descending order by weight after the name “sugars”. (Manufacturers have until December 2021 to transition to the new labels.)

Use % daily values (% DV). These percentages are based on “average” recommended daily intakes for people aged two or older. The daily value is not the same thing as “recommended dietary allowances (RDAs)”, which are age- and gender-specific nutrient amounts needed to maintain health.

Daily value percentages are listed for total fat, saturated and trans fat, fibre, sugars, sodium, potassium, calcium and iron.

A daily value of 5% or less means there’s only a little of that nutrient in one serving of the food. A daily value of 15% or greater means one serving of the food product contains a lot of the nutrient.

Get the whole picture. Just because a food carries a “made with whole grain” or “calorie-reduced” claim on the front package, doesn’t mean it’s nutritious. These foods may deliver a hefty dose of sodium or added sugar.

Read the entire label – including the ingredient list – to know what you’re eating. When buying packaged foods, choose ones with short, simple ingredient lists as often as possible.

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