How to Read Nutrition Labels

Reading Food Labels and Understanding Nutritional Information

Basic packaging information should include the name of the product, the name and address of the manufacturer, the net contents, the ingredient list, the serving size, the number of servings, and the quantities of specified nutrients. The following is a summary of information that is provided on food labels.

Ingredients:

  • Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight.
  • When more than one sweetener is used, manufacturers put them all together under the term “sweeteners” and list them in order of predominance.
  • Manufacturers list the specific fats, oils, and additives they used.

Serving Size: Labels must identify serving size amount and number of servings.

Nutrition Information – Lists:

  • Quantities of certain nutrients, total calories, and calories from fat
  • Grams of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium
  • Total grams of carbohydrate, sugars, fiber, and protein

Nutrient content information as compared with the percentage of recommended intakes:

  • Vitamins A, C, iron, and calcium

Word Terms and Meanings on Nutrition Labels:

  • Free – (also, without, no, zero) nutritionally trivial, unlikely to have a physiological consequence
  • High – 20% or more of the Daily Value for a given nutrient per serving
  • Less – (also, fewer, reduced) at least 25% less of a given nutrient than the comparison food
  • Light or Lite – any use of the term; other than as defined as light in color, or light in texture; should specify what it is referring to
  • Low (also little, few low source of) – an amount that would allow frequent consumption of a food without exceeding the dietary guidelines. A food that is naturally low in a nutrient may make this claim but only if it applies to similar foods (for example, “fresh cauliflower, a low sodium food”)
  • More (also added) – at least 10% more of a given nutrient than the comparison food
  • Good Source of – product provides between 10 and 19% of the Daily Value for a given nutrient per serving

Cholesterol Terms:

  • Cholesterol-free – less than 2 mg cholesterol per serving and less than 2 g of saturated fat per serving
  • Low in Cholesterol – 20 mg or less per serving and 2g or less of saturated fat per serving
  • Less Cholesterol – 25% or less cholesterol than the comparison food and 2g or less saturated fat per serving

Energy Terms:

  • Kilocalorie-free – Fewer than 5 kcal per serving
  • Light – ⅓ fewer kcal than the comparison food
  • Low Kilocalorie – less than 40 kcal per serving

Fat Terms:

  • Extra Lean – less than 5g of fat, 2g of saturated fat, and 95mg of cholesterol per serving and per 100 grams of food
  • Fat-free – less than 0.5 g of fat per serving and no added fat or oil
  • Lean – less than 10g fat, 4g saturated fat, and 95 mg cholesterol per serving/per 100 grams of food
  • Less Fat – 25% or less fat than the comparison food
  • Less Saturated Fat – 25% or less saturated fat than the comparison food
  • Low Fat – 3 grams or less fat per serving
  • Low Saturated Fat – 1 g or less saturated fat per serving
  • Percent Fat-free – used if the product meets the definition of LOW FAT or FAT-FREE and reflects the amount of fat in 100 grams.
  • Light – 50% or less of the fat than in comparison food

Fiber Terms:

  • High Fiber – 20% or more of the Daily Value for fiber
  • High-Fiber Claim – 3 grams of fiber per serving and per 100 grams, state total fiber

Sodium Terms:

  • Sodium-free or Salt-free – less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
  • Low Sodium – less than 140 mg per serving
  • Light – a low-fat food with 50% reduction in sodium
  • Light in Sodium – no more than 50% of the sodium in the comparison food
  • Very Low Sodium – less than 35g per serving
  • Sodium-free – less than 0.5g per serving

Understanding Calories

  • Calories are the units by which energy, released from foods, is measured.
  • Understanding calories and the amount you should eat each day depends on your age, height, gender, daily activity level, and if you want to lose or gain weight.

Nutritional Information

Understanding calories requires you to acknowledge that your body requires essential nutrients that must be obtained from food. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, as well as vitamins, minerals and water, are the essential nutrients. It is important to not overeat and eat essential nutrients which your body requires for good health.

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