Get Smart - Learn the Facts on Food Labels
Information provided by the American Dietetic Association: Your Link to Nutrition & Health
Become a smart shopper. Read food labels and find out more about the foods you buy and eat! Here's why it's smart to check out the Nutrition Facts found on most food labels. You can:
- Find out which foods are good sources of fiber, calcium, iron and vitamin C.
- Compare similar foods to find out which is lower in fat and calories.
- Search for low-sodium foods.
- Look for foods that are low in saturated fat and trans fats.
Use this guide while grocery shopping to help you make healthy food choices that meet your nutritional needs.
Reading the Nutrition Facts Label: Start with the Serving Size
- Look here for both the serving size (the amount for one serving) and the number of servings in the package.
- Remember to compare your portion size to the serving size listed on the label. If the label serving size is one cup, and you eat two cups, you are getting twice the calories, fat and other nutrients listed on the label.
Let the Percent Daily Values Be Your Guide
Use percent Daily Values (DV) to help you evaluate how a particular food fits into your daily meal plan:
- Daily Values are average levels of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories a day. A food item with a 5 percent DV means 5 percent of the amount of fat that a person consuming 2,000 calories a day would eat.
- Remember percent DV are for the entire day not just for one meal or snack.
- You may need more or less than 2,000 calories per day. For some nutrients you may need more or less than 100 percent DV.
The High and Low of Daily Values
- Five percent or less is low-try to aim low in total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
- Twenty percent or more is high-try to aim high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Check the Ingredient List
Foods with more than one ingredient must have an ingredient list on the label. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. This information is particularly helpful to individuals with food sensitivities, those who wish to avoid pork or shellfish or people who prefer vegetarian eating.
For more information on reading food labels, contact a dietetics professional.