How to Read a Nutrition Label

How to Read a Nutrition Label

I have a confession to make: I’m food nutrition label illiterate. Whenever I see that rectangular box of numbers and scientific jargon, the calorie count is the only tidbit of information that makes sense to me. While this statistic is important, it doesn’t hold much power alone. In order to understand the true nutritional value of the food you’re consuming, it’s important to read everything on the label. Get to know your food on a deeper level with these helpful hints.

For more on health and nutrition, explore: Take Your Nutrition Inventory, Tiny Fruits & Vegetables… Big Nutrition!, My 5 Favorite Low-Calorie Summer Treats, and Snack Recipes, Tips and Videos!.

The easiest way to read a nutrition label is to work your way down through the separate sections.

Serving size. Start by looking at the size of one serving and the number of servings in the package.

Calories. Check the total number of calories per serving. Remember to increase the amount of nutrients and Percent Daily Value (%DV) by the amount of servings you eat. For example, if you eat two servings, you will need to double the amount of nutrients and %DV.

Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. For a 2,000 calorie diet, you’ll need to limit your total fat intake to 56-78 grams a day— no more than 16 grams of saturated fat, less than two grams of trans fat, and less than 300 mg of cholesterol. 

Fibers, vitamins and other nutrients. Be sure to get 100 percent of these nutrients, particularly iron and calcium. Women from 19-50 years of age need 18 milligrams of iron and 1,000-1,500 milligrams of calcium per day to fight of iron deficiencies and build up bone density.

Keep in mind: The Nutrition Facts label is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. In general, women need to consume at least 1,200 calories—depending on age, weight and level of activity. You can find your suggested daily caloric needs using the American Heart Association’s online tool, My Fats Translator.


WebMD: Women’s Nutrition Needs Special Attention
American Heart Association: Reading Food Nutrition Labels

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