How to Interpret a Nutrition Label

The Nutrition Facts label that’s usually found on the back of packaged foods and beverages can help you make decisions around what you eat and drink. But it’s not always easy to interpret what all the numbers mean and whether you should eat that whole bag of chips-even if they’re made out of kale! You can select each of the questions below to see more information.

The nutrition information on the label usually references ONE serving, but there might be several servings in the package so be sure to check the number of servings, as well. Serving size can be listed by weight (2 ounces), volume (one cup) or pieces (2 cookies), and reflects the amount that people typically eat or drink. Serving size isn’t a recommendation of how much to eat/drink. To get an accurate understanding of the nutrition in the entire package, you can multiply the numbers you see on the label by the number of servings per package.

Nutrients are substances in your food that help your body function, and consuming too much or little can increase risk of certain conditions, such as heart disease, blood pressure and diabetes. The nutrients to limit are saturated fatsThe Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting saturated fat to < than 10% of calories a day because it can raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, which can increase risk of heart disease and stroke.1, trans fats, sodiumThe Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium (salt) to <2,300 milligrams/day.1 and added sugarsSugars in your diet can be naturally occurring or added, and the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 tsp. (25g)of added sugar per day for women and 9 tsp. (36 g) /day for men.2 Sugar can be listed in the ingredient list in different ways and a few include: ingredients ending in “ose” (e.g. maltose, sucrose), high fructose corn syrup, molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener.. The nutrients to increase include dietary fiber, Vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium.

Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that help promote normal body function, growth, and development. Diets that are higher in vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, anemia, and high blood pressure. Vitamins are organic substances present in many plant and animal products, and the 14 that may be listed on a label are: biotin, choline, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K. Minerals are inorganic substances and the 14 that may be listed on a label are: calcium, chloride, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, and zinc.

Nutrition Facts

Calories are a measurement of the energy content in one serving so pay attention to the serving size when calculating the total number of calories. Consumption of 2,000 calories per day is used as a general guide; however, your calorie needs may differ based on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level. To learn more about your specific targets, talk to your healthcare provider. You can also use this guide.

The % Daily Value (%DV) shows how much a nutrient in a single serving contributes to the daily recommended amount. To lower nutrients such as saturated fats or sodium, choose foods/beverages with a lower %DV. Talk to your healthcare provider about which nutrients to track to improve your health.

The ingredients are listed by weight (in descending order), where those that weight the most are listed first.