Eating Healthier and Feeling Better Using the Nutrition Facts Label
NOTE: FDA has issued final changes to update the Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. For more information, see Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label.
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The Right Tool to Balance Your Diet
You probably already use the Nutrition Facts label in some way—maybe to check calories, fat or sodium content. But, the more familiar you are with the information, the more you’ll want to use it daily to ensure you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Use the label when you shop, as you plan your meals, and as you cook each day. The label makes it easy to determine the amounts of nutrients you’re getting and to compare one product to another.
Strive for a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and nuts. Choose foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugar.
Regular physical activity is important for your overall health and fitness. It also helps you control body weight by balancing the calories you take in from food with the calories you expend each day.
USE THE NUTRITION FACTS LABEL TO EAT HEALTHIER
Check the serving size and number of servings.
- The Nutrition Facts Label information is based on ONE serving, but many packages contain more. Look at the serving size and how many servings you are actually consuming. If you double the servings you eat, you double the calories and nutrients, including the % DVs.
- When you compare calories and nutrients between brands, check to see if the serving size is the same.
Calories count, so pay attention to the amount.
- This is where you'll find the number of calories per serving and the calories from fat in each serving.
- Fat-free doesn't mean calorie-free. Lower fat items may have as many calories as full-fat versions.
- If the label lists that 1 serving equals 3 cookies and 100 calories, and you eat 6 cookies, you've eaten 2 servings, or twice the number of calories and fat.
Look for foods that are rich in these nutrients.
- Use the label not only to limit fat and sodium, but also to increase nutrients that promote good health and may protect you from disease.
- Some Americans don't get enough vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium, and iron, so choose the brand with the higher % DV for these nutrients.
- Get the most nutrition for your calories—compare the calories to the nutrients you would be getting to make a healthier food choice.
Know your fats and reduce sodium for your health.
- To help reduce your risk of heart disease, use the label to select foods that are lowest in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
- Trans fat doesn't have a % DV, but consume as little as possible because it increases your risk of heart disease.
- The % DV for total fat includes all different kinds of fats.
- To help lower blood cholesterol, replace saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in fish, nuts, and liquid vegetable oils.
- Limit sodium to help reduce your risk of high blood pressure.
Reach for healthy, wholesome carbohydrates.
- Fiber and sugars are types of carbohydrates. Healthy sources, like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains, can reduce the risk of heart disease and improve digestive functioning.
- Whole grain foods can't always be identified by color or name, such as multi-grain or wheat. Look for the "whole" grain listed first in the ingredient list, such as whole wheat, brown rice, or whole oats.
- There isn't a % DV for sugar, but you can compare the sugar content in grams among products.
- Limit foods with added sugars (sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn or maple syrup), which add calories but not other nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. Make sure that added sugars are not one of the first few items in the ingredients list.
For protein, choose foods that are lower in fat.
- Most Americans get plenty of protein, but not always from the healthiest sources.
- When choosing a food for its protein content, such as meat, poultry, dry beans, milk and milk products, make choices that are lean, low-fat, or fat free.
The % Daily Value is a key to a balanced diet.
The % DV is a general guide to help you link nutrients in a serving of food to their contribution to your total daily diet. It can help you determine if a food is high or low in a nutrient—5% or less is low, 20% or more is high. You can use the % DV to make dietary trade-offs with other foods throughout the day. The * is a reminder that the % DV is based on a 2,000-calorie diet. You may need more or less, but the % DV is still a helpful gauge.
HERE’S WHERE TO FIND MORE INFORMATION ON HEALTHY LIVING:
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S. Department of Agriculture