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Reading Nutrition Labels

Learning how to read and understand food labels can help you make healthier choices. Here are some tips for making the most of the information on the Nutrition Facts Label.

  • Serving Size: Serving sizes are based on the amount of food people typically eat, which makes them easy to compare to similar foods. This may or may not be the serving amount you normally eat. It is important that you pay attention to the serving size, including the number of servings in the package and compare it to how much you actually eat. The size of the serving on the food package influences all the nutrient amounts listed on the top of the label. For example, if a package includes 4 servings and you eat the entire package, you quadruple the calories, fat, etc. that you have eaten.
  • Calories and Calories From Fat: The number of calories and grams of nutrients are provided for the stated serving size. This is the part of the food label where you find the amount of fat per serving.
  • Nutrients: This section lists the daily amount of each nutrient in the food package. These daily values are the reference numbers that are set by the government and are based on current nutrition recommendations. Some labels list daily values for both 2,000 and 2,500 calorie diets. “% Daily Value” shows how a food fits into a 2,000 calorie per day diet. For diets other than 2,000 calories, divide by 2,000 to determine the % Daily Value for nutrients. For example, if you are following a 1,500 calorie diet, your % Daily Value goal will be based on 75 for each nutrient, not 100%. For fat, saturated fat and cholesterol choose foods with a low % Daily Value. For total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, try to reach your goal for each nutrient.
  • Ingredients:Each product should list the ingredients on the label. They are listed from largest to smallest amount by weight). This means a food contains the largest amount of the first ingredient and the smallest amount of the last ingredient.
  • Label Claim: Another aspect of food labeling is label claims. Some food labels make claims such as “low cholesterol” or “low fat.” These claims can only be used if a food meets strict government definitions. Here are some of the meanings:

 Fat-free or sugar-free  Less than 0.5 gram of fat or sugar
 Low fat 
 3 g. of fat or less
 Reduced fat or reduced sugar 
 At least 25% less fat or sugar
 Cholesterol free  
 Less than 2 mg. cholesterol and 2 g. or less saturated fat
 Reduced Cholesterol  
 At least 25% less cholesterol and 2 g. or less saturated fat
 Calorie free 
 Less than 5 calories
 Low Calorie
 40 Calories or less
 Light or lite        
 1/3 fewer calories or 50% less fat        

Carla Iafelice

Wellness Consultant - Heinen's Mayfield Village


We're Heinen's Grocery Stores, a Cleveland, OH based family-owned grocery store established in 1929. Focused on quality meats, fresh market produce and superior customer service, we make grocery shopping something to smile about. Serving the Northeast Ohio and Greater Chicago areas.