When buying food, reading the food labels is a step that is often skipped. It’s important to not only read food labels, but understand them. Food labels offer the information needed to help you make smart decisions.
Food label overview
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) require labels on almost all packaged foods. The “Nutrition Facts” label is usually on the back or side of a package.
The label includes information such as:
- Percent daily values
- Serving size
Tips for reading food labels
Learning how to read food labels can help you create a well-balanced diet. Here are some helpful tips:
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Focus on foods like lean meats and fish, whole-grain products, low-fat dairy, vegetables and fruits.
- Look at the ingredients list. Ingredients are listed from most to least. If sugar is the first ingredient, then that food is mostly made of sugar.
- Choose a diet low in fat and cholesterol. Limit total fat to about 30% of total calories per day.
- Read serving size information. What looks like a small package of food can actually contain more than one serving.
- Limit foods with added sugar. Even low-fat items can be high in sugar.
- Pay attention to the amount of sodium in all foods. Eating a lot of salt can lead to health issues. Look for low sodium or no salt added.
- Choose healthy snacks. Avoid junk food. It can be high in calories, fat and sodium, and low in essential nutrients.