Guide to Reading Nutrition Labels

SERVING SIZE is the first place to start when looking at the nutrition label.

All calorie and nutrient information is based on the serving size. Start by looking at the portion of food in one serving. This may be shown in cups, pieces, or package. This is always followed by the weight in grams.

Below the serving size is the amount of serving per container. Keep an eye out; many food items contain several servings.

Paying attention to the serving size is a good tool to avoid over consuming. If you consume two serving of food from the package you must double the calories and nutrients found on the label.


Tip: When comparing two similar products make sure that their serving sizes match. You may think one product contains more fat until you notice it serving size is just larger.

CALORIES are specified below the serving size. The calories listed on the label are based on the calories found in one serving.


General Calories Guide

40 Calories is low

100 Calories is moderate

400 Calories or more is high

Tip: Not all calories are the same. Calories from processed, high fat food should be limited, while calories from fruits and vegetables should not.


% DAILY VALUE is a general guide used to show how much a nutrient is contributing to your daily diet.

As a general rule, if the percentage is high (>20%) it is greatly contributing to the daily value, while if it is low (<5%) it is not contributing much.

NUTRIENTS are listed in grams and milligrams on the nutrition label.

Nutrients to Limit

When reading a nutrient label, keep in mind how much fat, sodium, sugar and cholesterol the product contains. Using the Dietary Guidelines for Americans you can make an informed decision if the product is right for you.

  • Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids by

replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids

  • Consume less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol
  • Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible
  • Reduce the intake of calories from added sugars

Nutrient to Increase

A product may be a good choice if it is rich in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, potassium or iron. These are all important nutrient that are lacking in most American’s diets. Use the percent daily value found next to each nutrient to decide if it is a good source.

The higher the percentage the more of the nutrient the product contains- 20% or more being high and 5% or less being low.

Choose foods that are the most nutrient dense. This means you are getting the most nutrients for the amount of calories. Do this by comparing the calories with the percentage of each nutrient.

Tip: If a product is high in calories and low in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, potassium and iron it is not a nutrient dense food.

For a more information on food labeling visit the FDA website


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