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Why is it helpful to read and understand food nutrition labels?

Frances Largeman-Roth, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

The Nutrition Facts panel on packages are packed with crucial health info. In this video, registered dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth serves up tips for deciphering calories, sodium, trans fats and more.


Marilyn Ricci, M.S., R.D.
Nutrition & Dietetics
The nutrition label provides you with the information you need to make good food choices. If you are watching your weight, need to reduce sodium, are diabetic, want to increase the amount of fiber in your diet and etc, the nutrition label helps you make the best choices. Also, it can help you get the best nutrition for the money you are spending. For example, cereal is expensive. To make the best buy, choose a cereal with at least 3 grams of fiber and one that has whole grain as the first ingredient rather than sugar. You only know this data if you read the label.   
The information you see on food labels provides a quick way to assess how much of the various vitamins and minerals a serving of that food supplies. These daily value percentages are calculated from the recommended dietary allowances (RDA ) for each vitamin and mineral originally developed during World War II. The RDA s reflect the minimum amount (in grams, milligrams, etc.) of each nutrient required to prevent a deficiency disease (i.e., vitamin C for scurvy and vitamin D for rickets).

In 1997 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published new, expanded recommendations, called Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), based on population subgroups, such as sex, age, pregnancy, etc. There simply isn’t enough room on food labels to include all the information for each subgroup, so for now food labels still only feature the older RDA s.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.