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The nutrition label is a helpful tool for choosing the most healthful foods for you. Explore the key parts of the nutrition label below.

Serving Size

This is the amount of food that the nutrition facts describe. This is not always the best portion size. The “Servings per Container” is often more than a single serving. When you eat more or less than the serving size, be sure to figure out the nutrition for your portion.

Fats

Foods that have less than 3g of Saturated Fat and less than 1g of Trans Fat per serving are heart healthy. You can find hidden sources of trans fat in the ingredient list. These include hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

Sodium

Choose foods with less than 140mg Sodium per serving. If it has more than 300mg sodium per serving, choose another brand or product.

Carbohydrate

Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, and some dairy. Choose these foods with more than 3g Dietary Fiber per serving to meet daily fiber goals of 25-38g.

Sugars

Choose foods with less than 8g Added Sugar per serving. Women should have less than 25g of added sugar per day and men should have less than 38g per day.

 

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Make the Label Work for You

It is okay to use just certain parts of the label. Focus on the sections that are most important to you.

Ingredient List

The list on a food package lists ingredients in order by weight. The one that weighs the most is listed first, and the one that weighs the least is listed last. This list is helpful if you need to avoid certain ingredients due to an allergy. It lets you to know what type(s) of fat, sugar or sugar substitute, sodium, or grain the food has.

Low Fat, Light, and Cholesterol Free

Foods often have claims that make a food item sound healthy. Some like “natural” don’t have a true meaning. Key words and health claims on labels are run by the Federal Trade Commission. Values on food labels are correct and always within 10% of the real content. Label claims include:

  • Calorie free: Less than 5.

  • Low calorie: 40 or less.

  • Light or lite: 1/3 fewer calories or 50% less fat. If more than half the calories are from fat, fat content must be reduced 50% or more.

  • Light sodium: 50% less.

  • Low sodium: 140mg or less.

  • Very low sodium: 35mg or less.

  • Sodium free: Less than 5mg.

  • Low fat: 3g or less.

  • Fat free: Less than ½.

  • Low cholesterol: 20mg or less and 2g or less saturated fat.

  • Cholesterol free: Less than 2mg and 2g or less saturated fat.

  • High fiber: 5g or more.

  • Sugar free: Less than ½g.

Heart Disease, Cancer, Blood Pressure and Osteoporosis

Health claims on labels must either be FDA-approved or say they are FDA-approved. Approved health claims include:

  • Heart disease: Low in saturated fat and cholesterol. High in fiber from fruits, vegetables and grains. At least 6.25g soy protein.

  • Cancer: Low in fat; high in dietary fiber or vitamins A or C.

  • High blood pressure: Low in sodium. Good source of potassium.

  • Osteoporosis: High in calcium or high in vitamin D.

Some health claims that do not have any proof must have a disclaimer. (i.e. “This claim has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”)