Understanding a nutrition label

Grocery shopping can be an overwhelming process due to the tempting food aisles. Reading food labels, as well as understanding the Nutrition Facts Label, can help provide more information on the foods you eat. Additionally, the Nutrition Facts Label can be used to compare similar products and allow you to choose the product that may provide more nutritional value such as foods higher in protein or fiber.

The Nutrition Facts Label:

On May 20, 2016, the FDA announced the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods that must be implemented by January 1, 2020. The new label will make it easier to make better informed food choices. 

What to Look For: 

  • Serving size will tell you the number of servings in the package and the amount for 1 serving. If the label serving size is 1 cup, and you eat 2 cups, you are getting twice the nutrients listed on the label.
  • Limit Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, Sodium & Added Sugars. 
  • Limit saturated fats to <10% of total calories daily. Choose products with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as these are heart healthy. 
  • Limit trans fats to as low as possible.
  • Limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg daily (for adults and children 14 years and older).
  • Limit added sugars to less than 10% of total calories daily. 
  • Protein.  Aim for a variety, including seafood, poultry, lean meats, eggs, beans and peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
  • Fiber.  Select foods high in fiber (>3 grams fiber per serving) such as 100% whole wheat bread, cereals made with whole grains, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, fruits and vegetables, as these foods will help you feel fuller longer. 

Most common claims seen on food packages:

  • Low calorie — <40 calories per serving.
  • Low cholesterol —≤20 mg of cholesterol and ≤2 mg of saturated fat per serving.
  • Reduced — 25% less of the specified nutrient or calories than the usual product.
  • Good source of — Provides at least 10% of the DV of a particular nutrient per serving.
  • Calorie- free — <5 calories per serving.
  • Fat free / sugar free — < ½ gram of fat or sugar per serving.
  • Low sodium —≤140 mg of sodium per serving.
  • High in (or Excellent source of) — Provides ≥20% of the DV of a specified nutrient per serving.