Food Labels: Decoded

If you don’t already read the nutrition facts before you buy food, then now is the time to start. You can make healthy decisions quickly by knowing what to look for and what to avoid. Eating healthily involves incorporating a variety of foods into your diet, and food labels are like a road map to guide you. Your body needs vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fiber and even some fat.

Follow these simple guidelines to learn how to read the label:

Serving Size

Look at the serving size and the number of servings in the package. Keep in mind that a package could have two, three or even five servings of food. Serving sizes are standardized to make it easier to compare similar foods. Also, many foods will contain servings from more than one food group.


Calories tell you how much energy you get from one serving. The number of servings you eat is linked to the number of calories you actually eat. The calorie section can help you manage your weight. In general, 40 calories is low, 100 is average and 400 or more is high. A food is low in fat if the calories from fat multiplied by three are not greater than the calories per serving.


Be careful when it comes to nutrients. Eating too much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol or sodium is unhealthy. Doing so could lead to certain chronic diseases like heart disease, some cancers or high blood pressure. Focus on eating vitamins and minerals, like Vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, dietary fiber and more.

Percent Daily Value

This shows the amount of nutrients you will get from eating one serving of that food. An average person needs 2,000 calories a day. The percent listed on the label is for example only. It is important to take into account whether or not you consume more or less than the average number of calories.

With practice, you’ll be an expert at reading labels. Remember, don’t just grab something and eat it. Read before you eat.