Whether you're trying to control calories, limit sodium or boost your fiber intake, the Nutrition Facts label can help you achieve your goal. Indeed, healthful eating doesn't begin in the kitchen—it starts in the supermarket. Our handy guide shows how to read and interpret the Nutrition Facts label so you can make the best food choices for you and your family during your next trip to your neighborhood Publix.
Use the information in the nutrient section to help limit certain nutrients and get more of others. Nutrients you might want to limit include saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. On the flip side, many people don't get enough dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron, even though adequate intakes of these nutrients are associated with health benefits.
Quick Tip: Nutrients you'll generally want to limit are bunched at the top of the section, while those you may want to emphasize are found farther down.
Footnote for Daily Values
On small packages, this footnote may simply state that Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Other labels include a chart showing the recommended intakes for certain nutrients based on 2,000- and 2,500-calorie daily diets. These figures are recommended intakes for a whole day and not a measure of a particular food, so the numbers stay the same from product to product. The chart simply helps you keep your daily goals in mind.
Quick Tip: For some nutrients the values shown are an upper limit (indicated by the words "less than"); aim for less than that amount each day. For other nutrients the values shown indicate a lower limit; aim for at least that amount each day.
The most important thing on the label is the serving size, which is shown in both familiar units (such as cups) and in metric amounts (grams). Everything else on the label—calories, fat, calcium, etc.—is based on the amount per serving.
Quick Tip: Determine how your actual portion compares to the stated serving size. If the listed serving is ½ cup but you're eating 1 cup, then you're consuming twice the stated amounts for all nutrients.
Calories and Calories from Fat
Calories indicate how much energy a serving provides, and calories from fat shows how many of those calories come from fat. This section of the label helps you manage your weight and watch how much fat you eat. The latest government guidelines suggest that total fat intake should be 20-35% of daily calories.
Quick Tip: If you're aiming for 33% total fat intake, simply divide the calories figure by three. If the calories from fat figure is less than or equal to your result, you'll know you're in line with your goal. If the result is more than the calories from fat figure, you can look for a different product or make a mental note to balance this food with a low-fat one later in the day.
Percent Daily Values (%DV)
Daily Values are recommended levels of intake based on current public health guidelines. Like many people, you might not know how many nutrients you consume in a day; the Percent Daily Values can help you get a sense of whether a food is relatively high or low in certain nutrients. Daily Value percentages are based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.
Quick Tip: A food is considered high in a nutrient if the Daily Value is 20% or more and a good source if it's 10-19%. Checking the percentages makes head-to-head comparisons between foods simple.