Fat, Sugar, Sodium and Carbohydrate
The sections on a food label shows name of a nutrient and amount of that nutrient provided by one serving of food. You may need to know this information, especially if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or are eating a diet that restricts certain nutrients such as sodium or carbohydrates.
Food labels also include information about how much sugar and protein is in food. If you are following a low-sugar diet or you're monitoring your protein intake, it's easy to spot how much of those nutrients are contained in one serving.
Vitamins, Minerals and Other Information
The light purple part of label lists nutrients, vitamins and minerals in food and their percent daily values. Try to average 100% DV every day for vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and fiber. Do opposite with fat, saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol. Try to eat less than 100% DV of these.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Reading a Food Label
Until you become accustomed to reading food labels, it's easy to become confused. Avoid these common mistakes when reading labels:
-A label may say that food is reduced fat or reduced sodium. That means that amount of fat or sodium has been reduced by 25% from original product. It doesn't mean, however, that food is low in fat or sodium. For example, if a can of soup originally had 1,000 milligrams of sodium, reduced sodium product would still be a high-sodium food.
-Don't confuse % DV for fat with percentage of calories from fat. If % DV is 15% that doesn't mean that 15% of calories comes from fat. Rather, it means that you're using up 15% of all fat you need for a day with one serving (based on a meal plan of 2,000 calories per day).
-Don't make mistake of assuming that amount of sugar on a label means that sugar has been added. For example, milk naturally has sugar, which is called lactose. But that doesn't mean you should stop drinking milk because milk is full of other important nutrients including calcium.
Reading Label Lingo
In addition to requiring that packaged foods contain a Nutrition Facts label, FDA also regulates use of phrases and terms used on product packaging. Here's a list of common phrases you may see on your food packaging and what they actually mean.
No fat or fat free - Contains less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving Lower or reduced fat: Contains at least 25 percent less per serving than reference food. (An example might be reduced fat cream cheese, which would have at least 25 percent less fat than original cream cheese.)