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Publication #FCS1049

Label Reading for Better Eating1

Glenda L. Warren and Claudia Peñuela2

Reading the Nutrition Facts label helps you know what is in the food you are eating. The label is also helpful for making healthy food choices—you can compare nutrition information for different types of foods, or even the same foods from different brands—before you buy!

Figure 1. 

The Nutrition facts label lists: serving size and servings per container; calories, calories from fat; types of fat the product contains; amount of cholesterol, fats, sugars, and sodium content per serving; nutrient amounts. Amounts are usually described within the context of both grams/milligrams per serving and the percent daily value based on a 2,000–2,500 calories-per-day diet.


Credit: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/foodlab.html
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Serving size and Servings per Container. One serving is one reference portion in any standardized unit. In this example, one serving equals one cup. If you eat more than one cup, you consume more calories and nutrients, and if you eat less you get fewer.

Calories. This part of the label tells you how many calories are in one serving. Eating more calories than your body needs can lead to weight gain. Follow this general guide for how many calories you should aim for in a serving:

  • 40 calories or less is low

  • 100 calories is moderate

  • 400 calories or more is high

Get these nutrients. Fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron may improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases.

% Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, but you may need more or less depending on your age, sex, and level of physical activity. %DVs help to balance your diet and compare similar foods. Follow this quick guide:

  • 5% DV or less is low

  • 20% DV or more is high

Footnote *Percent Daily Values Chart has information based on eating 2,000 or 2,500 calories per day.

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Visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov

to personalize calorie recommendations.

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Download the PDF version of this document for the nutrition quiz portion.

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Footnotes

1.

Adapted for use in Florida from Eating Right is Basic, Third Edition (1995: Michigan State University) this document is FCS1049, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. First published September 1997. Reviewed January 2001. Revised by Claudia Peñuela February 2011. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/.

2.

Glenda L. Warren, MS, RD, CFCS, associate professor and Extension nutritionist for EFNEP; Claudia Peñuela, assistant in nutrition–EFNEP; Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; University of Florida; Gainesville 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.