Being able to read a nutrition label is an important step in managing your eating habits.
Start with the Serving Size
- Look here for both the serving size (the amount people typically eat at one time) and the number of servings in the package.
- Compare your portion size to the serving size listed on the panel. The Nutrition Facts applies to the serving size, so if the serving size is one cup and you eat two cups, you are getting twice the calories, fat and other nutrients than what is listed on the label.
Check Out the Total Calories
- Find out how many calories are in a single serving.
Let the Percent Daily Values Be a Guide
- Use percent Daily Values (DV) to help evaluate how a particular food fits into your daily meal plan. Percent DV are for the entire day, not just one meal or snack.
- Daily Values are average levels of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories a day.
- Low is 5% or less. Aim low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium.
- High is 20% or more. Aim high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Check Out the Nutrition Terms
- Low calorie: 40 calories or less per serving.
- Low cholesterol: 20 mg or less and 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving.
- Reduced: At least 25% less calories than the usual product.
- Good source of: Provides at least 10% to 19% of the DV of a particular nutrient per serving.
- Excellent source of: Provides at least 20% or more of the DV of a particular nutrient per serving.
- Calorie free: Less than five calories per serving.
- Fat free/sugar free: Less than ½ gram of fat or sugar per serving.
- Low sodium: 140 mg or less of sodium per serving.
- High in: Provides 20% or more of the DV of a specified nutrient per serving.
Choose Low in Saturated Fat, Added Sugars and Sodium
- Eating less saturated fat, added sugars and sodium helps to reduce your risk for chronic disease.
- Saturated fat and trans fat are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
- Eating too much added sugar makes it difficult to meet nutrient needs within your calorie requirement.
- High levels of sodium can lead to high blood pressure.
- Remember to aim for low percentage DV of these nutrients.
Get Enough Vitamins, Minerals and Fiber
- Eat more potassium, fiber, calcium, vitamin D, and iron to maintain good health and help reduce your risk of certain health problems such as osteoporosis and anemia.
- Choose to eat more fruits and vegetables to get more of these nutrients.
- Remember to aim high for percentage DV of these nutrients.
Consider the Additional Nutrients
- Protein: A percentage DV for protein is not required on the label. Eat moderate portions of lean meat, poultry, fish, low-fat milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, plus beans, peanut butter, seeds and soy products.
- Carbohydrates: There are three types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches and fiber. Eat whole-grain breads, cereals, rice and pasta plus fruits and vegetables.
- Sugars: Simple carbohydrates, or sugars, occur naturally in foods such as fruit and milk or come from refined sources such as table sugar or corn syrup. Added sugars are included on the updated Nutrition Facts label.