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How do I read the nutrition label?

Amy Jamieson-Petonic
Nutrition & Dietetics
A nutrition label can be confusing. The first thing I speak with clients about is to use the label as a tool for healthy eating. Try to keep your diet full of 100% whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy, and healthy fats and lean protein. As for the label, look for products that are lower in fat (less than 3 grams per serving), lower in sodium (less than 500 mg per serving), 0 trans fats, and high in fiber (more than 5 grams per serving). A registered dietitian at www.eatright.org can help you as well. Good luck!
Cassie Vanderwall
Nutrition & Dietetics

The nutrition label appears on every food item that can be purchased at a store. It can be a very helpful tool in learning about the foods you eat every day. You can easily navigate the food label by taking the following steps:

  • Start at the top and note the Serving Size. This is the amount of food that the nutrition information describes. Often times the Servings per Container can be many more than a single serving and can change among food products.
  • Examine the types of fat. Foods that have less than 3g of Saturated Fat and less than 1g of Trans Fat per serving are considered heart healthy.
  • Check out the Sodium. Healthy foods have less than 300mg of Sodium per serving.
  • Look at the Total Carbohydrate. Healthy carbohydrate foods have more than 3g Dietary Fiber per serving. Also, if you are counting carbohydrates you will want to look that how many grams of Total Carbohydrate are in each serving.
Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics
  • Always start by looking at the serving size
  • Check out the total calories and fat
  • Use the percent Daily values as a guide
  • Limit, Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium
  • Get enough vitamins, minerals and fiber
  • Look at additional nutrients
  • Check the ingredient list
  • Understand the health claims
For more information on how to read a nutrition label visit eatright.org
 
Devin Alexander
Nutrition & Dietetics
It's important both to read the list of ingredients and to read the actual calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, etc. It's important to try to derive as big a percentage of your diet from wholesome foods as possible. If a label for a package of donuts says, "made with whole grains", don't be fooled. The donut is likely still fried. Thus, this is not a good choice. By reading the entire label, you can make sure you are not consuming unnecessary fats or chemicals. For instance, one of my fans said that she switched from raisins to dried cherries. I suggested she read the label on the cherries because many have oil added to them, when raisins do not. Same with nuts. Many nuts can be great for you, but there is no need for them to be roasted in oil. If the package says, "dry roasted", you know they were not roasted in oil. If it says, "roasted", it's likely there are additives you don't need. There are a lot of similar nuances, so it really is important to read labels. 
Annemarie Colbin
Nutrition & Dietetics
Read most importantly the LIST OF INGREDIENTS! This is where you find out whether the thing you're buying is actually food. All the ingredients should sound like something you could eat or cook. If it doesn't sound like food, it ain't food. If it doesn't grow, or run, or swim, or fly, it ain't food. Very simple. I personally don't like consuming non-foods, and don't think they're healthy.

As far as the nutrient information, compare it to the serving size, see if the serving size makes sense. E.g., nobody eats 1/2 cup pasta -- it's more like 2 cups. That makes a difference in the amounts of nutrients ingested.
Marco Di Buono
Nutrition & Dietetics
The Nutrition Facts table gives you information on calories and other nutrients. Use the amount of food and the % Daily Value (% DV) to choose healthier food products. Here's how:

Step 1: Look at the serving size of the food at the top of the Nutrition Facts:

Nutrition Facts are based on a specific amount of food. Compare this to the amount that you actually eat. For example, the Servng Size for frozen pizza may be 1/4 of the whole pizza, but you may eat as much as half. Therefore, you would be getting twice as much of all the nutrients listed in the Nutrition Facts table.

Step 2: Read the %DV (Daily Value):

The % DV helps you see if a specific amount of food has a little or a lot of a nutrient. 5% is a little, 15% or more is typically a lot.

Step 3: Choose

Make a better choice for you using the %DV. Here are some nutrients you may want...
less of:
  • Fat
  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Sodium
more of:
  • Fibre
  • Iron
  • Vitamin A
  • Calcium

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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.