Accurately Reading Nutrition Labels

A couple reading a nutrition label in supermarket

Reading a nutrition label can be confusing, and sometimes, they’re made to be exactly that – confusing to consumers so that they don’t stop to think about what they’re eating. So start from the top and make your way down and to right, and soon enough, it'll become less daunting of a task!

  • Top: To make it easy, start at the top and work your way toward the bottom. The serving information at the top tells you the size of a single serving as well as the total number of servings per package. Compare the calories per serving to what you normally consume of the package in one sitting. For example, if you discover that you’re usually eating two servings, multiply the calories per serving times two.
  • Middle: In the middle portion of the label, you’ll find the key nutrients. Not all fats are bad, as we know, but if the saturated fat content is high, you may want to stay away from it, or if you choose to have the food, make sure your saturated fat intake for the rest of the day is low. When it comes to trans-fat, avoid it altogether. Total sugars can include both natural and added sugars. More recent nutrition labels should include added sugar content – if that number is high, avoid that food choice. Additionally, limit the amount of sodium in your daily diet to 2,300 mg.
  • On the right side bar, you’ll find the % Daily Values (DV), which tells you the percentage of each nutrient in a single serving, in terms of the daily recommended amount. If you want to consume less of a nutrient (such as saturated fat or sodium), choose foods with a lower % DV (5 percent or less). If you want to consume more of a nutrient (such as fiber), choose foods with a higher % DV (20 percent or more).