Using the Nutrition Facts Label

Reading and understanding the Nutrition Facts Label can help you eat healthier.

What do you look for when you read the Nutrition Facts Label on food products you are purchasing or have stored in your kitchen? Learning to read and understand the labels can help you make healthier food choices for you and your family. Individuals read the Nutrition Facts label for a variety of different reasons. Some are watching the caloric intake if they are trying to lose weight, others with blood pressure or diabetic concerns are watching sodium or sugar intake. If high cholesterol is a concern, you can use the label to monitor your cholesterol intake. Parents may read the label to find for good calcium choices for their children. No matter what part of the label you are looking at, being an informed consumer will help you make healthier choices.

An important place to start when reading the label is right at the top with the Serving Size. Being aware of how many servings of the product you are actually eating can make a big difference in the amount of calories and other nutrients you are getting. For example, if the serving size is one cup and you eat two cups then you need to double the number of calories as well as the other nutrient amounts to get an accurate picture of what you are consuming.

The label provides us with information on nutrients that we should limit, including fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar. It also give information on nutrients that we should be sure to get enough of, including carbohydrates, fiber, protein, vitamin A and C, calcium and iron. The Percent Daily Value section tells you the percent of each nutrient in a single serving in terms of the daily recommended amount. As a guide, if you want to consume less of a nutrient (such as saturated fat, cholesterol or sodium), choose foods with a lower percent daily value. Five percent or less is considered “low”. If you want to consume more of a nutrient (such as fiber), look for foods with a higher percent daily value. Twenty percent or more is considered “high”.

For more information on reading the food labels the US Department of Health and Human Services provides a guide, Eating Healthier and Feeling Better using the Nutrition Facts Label.

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