1. Serving Size. Start here — because all the information on the label is based on one serving. The label tells you the size of a single serving — and the number of servings in the package.
A quick tip: The listed Serving Size doesn’t always reflect what people eat. For example, maybe the label says “Serving Size 1 cup” — but you eat two cups. You need to double all the other Nutrition Facts numbers to know the true amounts you’re getting.
2. Calories. Again, the amount listed is for one serving. Are you curious about what a good daily calorie goal is for you? It’s not the same for everyone. So, talk with your doctor.
A quick tip: Don’t let a small package fool you. If you don’t check the Serving Size, you may eat or drink more calories than you realize.
3. Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, and Cholesterol. Look for foods that are low in these not-so-healthy nutrients. Eating too much cholesterol and total fat — especially saturated fat and trans fat — may raise your risk of health problems, including heart disease and some cancers.
A quick tip: Check the “% Daily Value.” If it has 5 percent or less, that’s considered low. A high Daily Value is 20 percent or higher.
4. Sodium. Too much sodium can raise blood pressure in some people. And, most of the sodium Americans eat is found in processed foods.
A quick tip: A food can be labeled “low-sodium” if it has less than 140 milligrams per serving.
5. Dietary Fiber. It’s good for your heart and overall health. And, most Americans don’t get enough. Foods with 5 or more grams per serving are considered “high-fiber.”
A quick tip: Foods rich in fiber — whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables — may make you feel fuller, a bonus for weight control.
No Nutrition Facts Needed
Of course, some good-for-you foods — fresh fruits and veggies — often don’t come with labels. Just aim for a wide and colorful variety. These gems are naturally nutritious — and that’s a fact!
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; American Academy of Family Physicians; U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Food and Drug Administration
United Healthcare Healthy Mind Healthy Body Newsletter
Published January 2014
By Melanie Polk, M.M.Sc., R.D., F.A.D.A.