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.
What to know on the nutrition facts label
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.
Amount of Calories
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.
Percent Daily Value
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.
Changes to the nutrition facts label
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:
- Serving size, the number of servings per container, and the calories are now in bigger and bolder fonts, and standard serving sizes have been updated to better align with amounts typically eaten.
- Calories from Fat has been removed from nutrition facts label because research shows the type of fat consumed is more important than the amount.
- Added Sugars are now required to be listed on the nutrition facts label. Notes that the added sugars are included in the grams of total sugars. For example, if a product lists 15 grams of total sugar and includes 7 grams of added sugar, that means one serving of that food or beverage contains 8 grams of naturally occurring sugars plus 7 grams of added sugars for a total of 15 grams of sugar.
- List of nutrients that is required or permitted on the label has been updated. For example, Vitamin D and potassium are now required on the label because Americans do not always get the recommended amounts. Meanwhile, Vitamins A and C are no longer required since deficiencies of these vitamins are rare today.
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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: