» Nutrition » Recipes

A Guide on How to Read Nutrition Labels

By HealthLife Contributor
Updated: February 23, 2009
Nutrition labels reveal the truth behind what you are really eating. Whether you are trying to lose weight or eat a balanced diet, learning how to decipher nutrition labels can make it easier to make informed choices about what you are eating.

Serving size

When you are learning how to read nutrition labels, it is important to check the serving size. This information will tell you how much of the product is equal to one serving, as well as how many servings can be found in that particular package. Usually a serving size is measured in a familiar quantity, such as a cup or a number of pieces, as well as by weight. It is important to keep in mind this information. For example, a 16 ounce bottle of soda is often considered two servings. Therefore, if you were to drink the entire bottle, you would need to double the rest of the nutritional information to accurately calculate what you are eating.

Calories/Calories from Fat

Understanding calories is an important element of learning how to read nutrition labels. Calories are a measurement of the amount of energy that is in food, and many people tend to eat more calories than is really necessary. To give you an idea of caloric amounts per serving, 40 or less is low calorie, 100 calories is moderate, and 400 calories or more is considered a high-calorie food.


Another important thing about learning how to read nutrition labels is understanding the nutrients. There are two main types of nutrients to monitor - those that you should limit, and those that are critical for your bodily functions.

Nutrients to watch when you are learning how to read nutrition labels include the amount of fat, cholesterol, and sodium in a product. Eating to many of these can be linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and even some cancers.

You also want to ensure that you are enjoying sufficient nutrients that are good for your body. When you are learning how to read nutrition labels, make sure you look for vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. These are important for overall health and wellbeing.

The Footnote

On many labels, you will see a footnote. When you are learning how to read nutrition labels, you should understand what the footnote means. Often, this explains that the percent of daily values is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This footnote, when included, shows the amounts of certain nutrients as recommended by public health experts. This footnote will often show the recommended nutrient amounts for a 2500 calorie diet as well. For these numbers, there is a gram or milligram amount listed. This is 100% of the daily value amount. For example, for a 2,000 calorie diet, it is recommended that you eat no more than 65 grams of fat per day. Besides having an upper limit, a few nutrients, such as dietary fiber, have a minimum limit that you should reach, and therefore say “at least.”

The Percent Daily Value

When you are learning how to read nutrition labels, you will find several percentages. These are the percent daily value for a 2,000 calorie diet. These numbers allow you to easily see if you are getting a high or low amount of these nutrients. For example, if the product you are eating says that it contains 10% saturated fat, this means that one serving of the food includes ten percent of the total saturated fat that you should eat in a day. In general, 5% or under is considered a low amount, and 20% or more is considered a high amount. This can make it much easier to compare the nutrition of two separate products at a glance, as well as tell you how nutrient-rich a food is or isn't.

Learning how to read nutritional labels will allow you to make better decisions. You can compare like products to decide which ones will fulfill your needs better. You can also use nutritional labels as a way to eat a more balanced diet. If you watch your labels, you can have your diet splurges and still maintain a healthy lifestyle overall.
Free Profile
Age: Current Weight:
Height: ft in Target Weight:
Free Profile
Sponsor Links