Language selection


Top of page

ISS Ingredients: Reading Food Labels

Difficulty: Moderate

Duration: 65-75 minutes

Materials: Minimal

Download the PDF version (900 KB)


Before astronauts go to space for a mission, they spend a lot of time on Earth preparing. To physically prepare for a mission, they need to be healthy and fit. It is important for astronauts to consume healthy, balanced meals which will help power their bodies for training. To choose healthy packaged foods at the grocery store, people can use the nutrition facts tables and read the ingredients list.

Mission description

In this activity, participants learn how to use food labels and develop an understanding of nutrition facts tables. Participants will help an astronaut, training for an upcoming mission, read and understand serving sizes, percent daily value, and ingredients.


Breakdown Duration
Background 15 minutes
Activity 90 minutes
Discussion and questions 15 minutes
Total 2 hours


To increase participant ability to use and interpret food labels.


By the end of the lesson, participants will be able to:

Mission preparation



Activity 1 : Information on Food Labels (30 minutes)

Participants will navigate "Using food labels" from Canada's Food Guide.

Activity 2: Help an Astronaut Use Food Labels (1 hour)

The participants will complete the attached worksheet.


Reading nutrition facts tables

The nutrition facts table on a product label provides information on the nutritional content of food and serves as a guide to help you make informed food choices.

The nutrition facts table - Text version

Nutrition facts

  • Per 1 cup (250 mL)
  • Calories: 110
  • % daily value is followed by an asterisk that refers to a footnote at the bottom of the nutrition facts table.
  • Fat: 0 g and 0% daily value
    • saturated: 0 g + Trans: 0 g and 0% daily value
  • Carbohydrate: 26 g
    • Fibre: 0 g and 0 % daily value
    • Sugars: 22 g and 22 % daily value
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 0 mg and 0% daily value
  • Potassium: 450 mg and 10% daily value
  • Calcium: 30 mg and 2% daily value
  • Iron: 0 mg and 0% daily value
  • Percent daily value footnote: 5% or less is a little, 15% or more is a lot.

Source: Canadian Food Inspection Agency

% Daily Value (DV) is based on 2,000 calories of daily eating

On the nutrition facts table, 5% or less of the Daily Value is a little, and 15% or more of the Daily Value is a lot.

The % DV can help you identify products that are higher in the nutrients you may want more of such as fibre, potassium, calcium, and iron. You can also choose products that are lower in elements you may want less of such as saturated fats and sodium.

Food companies may have nutrient claims on the product label. They may say the product "contains," is a "source of," is a "good source of" or is "high in" a specific mineral or vitamin.

The nutrient claims "contains" and "source of" mean the food provides ≥ 5% of DV per serving of the stated size.

The nutrient claims "good source of" and "high in" mean the food provides ≥ 15% of DV, except for vitamin C which must be ≥ 30% of DV.

Reading ingredient lists

The ingredient list shows all the ingredients in most packaged foods. Reading the ingredients on a food package can help you avoid allergens and make healthy choices. The ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. In other words, a food contains more of the ingredients found at the beginning of the list and less of the ingredients at the end of the list.

Dates on packaged foods

Dates listed on most packaged foods can help consumers identify the manufacturing/packaged on date, expiry date, or best-before date of the product.

The best-before date indicates the anticipated amount of time that an unopened food product will retain its freshness, taste, texture, and nutritional value. The best-before date can be listed anywhere on the food package. Generally, the month and day are always listed, and the year is optional unless it is needed for clarity. If the year is included, it appears first, followed by the month and day. For example, a food package may have a best-before date listed as "" which means .

The months listed on the best-before date are shortened. See below for the shorthand version of months listed on a packaged food.

Best-before dates do not indicate if a food is safe to eat. If the best-before date has passed, the product may still be safe to eat. However, it may have lost some of its freshness, flavour, or texture.

A best-before date is not the same as an expiry date. The expiration date is only required on certain foods such as formulated liquid diets, meal replacements, nutritional supplements, and infant formula. When the expiration date has passed, the nutrient content may not be the same as it is declared on the label.

Packaging dates such as "packaged on…" are used on retail-packed foods with a durable life of 90 days or less. This means the food will retain its freshness, etc. until approximately 90 days after packaging.

Astronauts and food scientists providing meals for astronauts use the dates on packaged foods. The packaged foods sent to astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) for a six-month mission must have a shelf life of one year. This is because the foods are usually sent to the ISS before the astronaut arrives and these foods should retain their freshness, texture, and taste for the duration of the astronaut's mission.

For more information, visit the following pages:

Download the participant handout (PDF, 655 KB)

Date modified: