How to Read a Food Label

1. Start with Serving Size

  • Look here for both the serving size (the amount for one serving) and the number of servings in the package.
  • Compare your portion size (the amount you actually eat) to the serving size listed on the panel. If the serving size is one cup and you eat two cups, you are getting twice the calories, fat and other nutrients listed on the label.

2. Check Out the Total Calories and Fat

  • Find out how many calories are in a single serving and the number of calories from fat. It’s smart to cut back on calories and fat if you are watching your weight.

3. Let the Percent Daily Values Be Your Guide. Use the % Daily Values (DV) to find the healthiest food choices.

  • % Daily Value tells you how much of each nutrient is being provided in one serving. A food item with a 5% Daily Value for fat provides 5 percent of the total fat that a person needs to eat for a 2,000 calorie diet.
  • Percent Daily Values are for the entire day, not just one meal or snack.
  • You may need more or less than 2,000 calories per day, but use the percentage numbers as a general guide for making healthy food choices.

4. The High and Low of Daily Values

  • 5% or less is low. Choose foods low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium.
  • 20% or more is high. Choose foods high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.

5. Limit Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium

  • Eating less fat, cholesterol and sodium may help reduce your risk for heart disease while also preventing weight gain.
  • Total fat includes saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fat. Limit to 100% Daily Value or less per day.
  • Saturated fat and trans fat are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
  • High levels of sodium can contribute to high blood pressure.
  • Aim for low % Daily Values of these nutrients.

6. Get Enough Vitamins, Minerals and Fiber

  • Eat more fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron to maintain good health.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables to get more of these nutrients.
  • Aim for high % Daily Values of these nutrients.