Reading and comparing nutrition facts on food labels can help you make healthy food choices.
The FDA requires almost all foods in grocery stores to have a Nutrition Facts label on the package. Fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh fish, very small packages, and foods made in the store do not have to include this label. The FDA asks stores to use posters to provide this information for fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish.
Serving Size: At the top of the nutrition label is the serving size and number of servings in the food package. Even small packages may contain more than one serving per package. If you eat more than one serving, you will need to multiply the calories and nutrients by the number of servings you eat. Serving sizes can vary from product to product. If you are comparing 2 products, check to see if the serving sizes are the same.
Calories: The number of calories per serving is listed after the serving-size information. Calories are the measure of how much energy you get from a serving of a food.
The Nutrition Facts label is based on a 2000-calorie-a-day diet. The number of calories you should eat may be higher or lower, depending on your age, gender, and how active you are. For example, inactive or older people usually need fewer calories. Active people and teens may need more calories per day. Keep this in mind when you read the label. A footnote near the bottom of the label shows the amounts of some nutrients you should get from a 2000-calorie-a-day diet. It may also show these amounts for 2500 calories a day.
Calories from Fat: The label lists the number of calories that come from fat in a serving of the food. If the food has 200 calories and 100 calories are from fat, 50% of the calories come from fat, which means the food is high in fat.
The label lists the total amount of each nutrient in grams (g) in 1 serving.
Choosing foods that are low in fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or sodium may reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, or high blood pressure.
Other nutrients listed on the label are:
% Daily Value (% DV): Next to most nutrients, the label shows the percentage of the recommended daily amount that you will get from 1 serving of that food. Some of the nutrients listed on the label (sugar, protein, and trans fat) don’t have a % DV. The label must include a footnote that tells you whether the daily value is based on a 2000 or 2500 calorie diet.
Food packages have many terms. By law, here is what the terms mean:
Food packages should list the ingredients somewhere on the package. The ingredients are listed in order of the highest to lowest content by weight. For example, the ingredients list on a can of water packed tuna may read “tuna, water, salt.” The tuna is listed first because it weighs the most and is the main ingredient. The water weighs less than the tuna, and the salt weighs the least. The ingredients list includes any nutrients, color additives, preservatives, fats, or sugars that have been added.
Food producers must list any food ingredient that is a common cause of allergic reactions. The foods that most often cause allergic reactions are milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, fish, soy, and wheat.
Eating a variety of foods everyday is the key to good health. Food labels can help you compare similar foods and make the healthiest choices.