What does the information on a food label mean?

If you’re not already in the habit of reading food labels, now is a good time to start. Reading labels can help you make healthy food choices. When reading food labels, look for key words and health claims that fit the requirements of your eating plan. For example, look first for foods labeled “high fiber” or “reduced sodium.” Even more importantly, learn to pay close attention to the “Nutrition Facts” section of a food label.

1. Serving size: Is the serving size appropriate for you? If not, you’ll need to adjust the nutrient and calorie values accordingly.

2. Calories: Different people need a different number of calories each day. Look here to see how a serving adds to your daily count.

3. % daily value: The daily values on food labels are listed for people who should consume 2,000 calories (or 2,500 calories) per day. Your daily values may be different.

4. Total fat: Aim low here. For heart-healthier eating, choose foods lower in total fat. Beware of entrees that have more than 10 grams of fat per serving, or other foods that have more than 3 grams of fat. Notice that polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are included under “Total Fat” but are not listed separately.

5. Saturated fat: Eat as little of this as possible. Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol.

6. Trans fat: Eat as little of this as possible. Trans fat raises blood cholesterol and lowers HDL.

7. Cholesterol: Too much cholesterol can lead to heart disease. Aim for 200 mg a day or less.

8. Sodium: Most of us consume far more sodium than we need -- and prepared and processed foods can be the cause. Aim for 2,400 mg a day or less.

9. Dietary fiber: Aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day, with most of this coming from whole grains.

10. Sugars: Compare the sugar grams with the total carbohydrate grams. If the numbers are close to the same, the product is high in sugar, and not the best choice.

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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.