How to Read Nutrition Labels

The Physicians Committee
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How to Read Nutrition Labels

Nutrition labels can help you make wise food choices. Most packaged foods in the grocery store list nutrition information on the package in a section called the Nutrition Facts. Foods that are exempt from the label include foods in very small packages, foods prepared in the store, and foods made by small manufacturers.

The Nutrition Facts tell you the serving size and the amount of various nutrients, such as total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and fiber per serving.

  • Serving size: This reflects the amount that an average person eats at one helping.
  • Servings per package: The next line tells you how many servings the package contains. Multiply this number by the serving size and it should equal, or come close to, the total volume of the package.
  • Total fat: This line tells you how many grams of fat are in one serving. If a product is labeled low-fat, it will have 3 grams or less per serving. Aim for 2-3 grams per serving, or 20-30 grams of fat per day.
  • Cholesterol: Only animal products have cholesterol. If there is any cholesterol (anything other than 0 grams) you can assume the food has some sort of animal product in it.
  • Fiber: Look for minimally processed, high-fiber foods. Aim for 40+ grams of fiber per day.
  • Sugar: Look for foods that have 6 grams of sugar or less.
  • Ingredients: Ingredients are listed in order, starting with those found in the largest amounts, by weight, and progressing to those present in the smallest amounts. Here you can find out if a food contains eggs, milk, sugar, oils, or whatever else you want to avoid eating.
    • Important:
      • Casein, caseinate, lactalbumin, whey or whey solids, milk solids or low-fat milk solids are all derived from cow's milk.
      • Albumin comes from eggs.
      • Corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, cane juice, and evaporated cane juice, are all forms of sugar.