How to read nutrition labels – Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

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When browsing the shelves of a grocery store, it can feel like there are endless choices and perhaps an overwhelming amount of information to consider while making those choices. There are a variety of reasons that people look at food labels and understanding the information on the nutrition facts label found on packaged foods and beverages can help you make quick, informed food choices.
The serving size on a nutrition facts label is based on the amount that people typically consume of that product. The serving size is not a recommendation of how much you should eat or drink, as everyone’s needs are different. However, it is important to look at the serving size as all of the information on the label, from calories to amounts of nutrients, is based on one serving of the product. Looking at the servings per container is also helpful as it lets you know how many servings are in that package.
This section tells you the total number of calories or energy supplied from all sources in one serving of the food. Carbohydrates, fat and protein are all sources of calories in food. Remember, the number of calories you consume is based on how much of the product you actually eat. In this example label, 1 serving or ⅔ of a cup of this food provides 230 calories. If you consume two servings, the number of calories provided by the food you eat would be 460 calories.
You can use this information on the label to support your individual nutrition needs. Look for foods that contain more of the nutrients you want to get more of and less of the nutrients you may want to limit. For example, you may be interested in reducing the amount of saturated fat or added sugar in your diet or trying to include more fiber or calcium.
The Daily Values (DV) are reference amounts that tell you if one serving of a food contains a little or a lot of that nutrient. A general guideline when looking at percent daily values is that if a serving of food provides 5% DV or less of a nutrient, that food is considered low in that nutrient. If a serving of food provides 20% DV or more of a nutrient, that food is considered high in that nutrient.
The footnote is used to help explain the Percent Daily Values.
You may have noticed some slight changes to the nutrition facts labels on products over the past few years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated the Nutrition Facts Label and required changes to the label on all food packages. Here is a brief breakdown of some of the key changes:
Interested in learning more about nutrition and planning and preparing meals and snacks? Check out our nutrition video series sponsored by General Mills! After watching the videos, fill out the survey that is linked in the description of each video for a chance to win a Tops gift card! The videos feature tips for:
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