The following is a quick guide to reading the Nutrition Facts Panel.
START WITH THE SERVING SIZE
Look for both the serving size (the amount for one serving) and the number of servings in the package. Compare your portion size (the amount you actually eat) to the serving size listed on the panel. If the serving size is one cup and you eat two cups, you are getting twice the calories, fat and other nutrients listed on the label.
CHECK THE TOTAL CALORIES & FAT
Find out how many calories are in a single serving and the number of calories from fat. It’s smart to cut back on calories and fat if you are watching your weight.
LET THE PERCENT DAILY VALUES BE YOUR GUIDE
Use percent Daily Values (DV) to help evaluate how a particular food fits into your daily meal plan. Daily Values are average levels of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories a day. A food item with a 5 percent DV of fat provides 5 percent of the total fat that a person consuming 2,000 calories a day should eat.
Percent DV are for the entire day, not just one meal or snack. You may need to consume less or more than 2,000 calories depending upon your age, gender, activity level, and whether you’re trying to lose, gain or maintain your weight. In general, as you think about the amount of calories in a food per serving, remember that for a 2,000-calorie diet:
40 calories per serving is considered low;
100 calories per serving is considered moderate; and
400 calories or more per serving is considered high.
THE HIGH & LOW DAILY VALUES
- 5 percent or less is low. Aim low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. Limit Total fat to no more than 56–78 grams a day — including no more than 16 grams of saturated fat, less than two grams of trans fat, and less than 300 mg cholesterol (for a 2,000 calorie diet).
- Eating less fat, cholesterol and sodium may help reduce your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer.
- 20 percent or more is high. Aim high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- Eat more fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron to maintain good health and help reduce your risk of certain health problems such as osteoporosis and anemia. Choose more fruits and vegetables to get more of these nutrients.
* Protein: Eat moderate portions of lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese, plus beans and nuts.
* Carbohydrates: There are three types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches and fiber. Eat whole-grain breads, cereals, rice and pasta plus fruits and vegetables.
CHECK THE INGREDIENTS LIST:
Foods with more than one ingredient must have an ingredient list on the label. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Those in the largest amounts are listed first. This information is particularly helpful to individuals with food sensitivities, those who wish to avoid nuts, gluten grains or limit added sugars or people who prefer vegetarian eating.