Picture this:

You're at the grocery store, stocking up on your food supplies. You get confused looking at the vast array of choices available. How do you choose what to buy?

Young couple standing in a grocery store near shelves with canned goods, reading a food label

This is where learning to read food labels can make your life easier!

  • Make informed choices about the food you buy

  • Compare and choose products more easily

  • Know the ingredients a food product contains

  • Help reduce food waste by reading the correct storage information and safe consumption recommendations

What's In A Food Label?

By law, most packaged food must be labeled with a nutrition facts table and ingredients list.

Nutrition Facts Table

It provides information on serving size, calories, certain nutrients and % daily values (% DV).

Nutrition Facts Label Download Image 3

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Serving Size

  • All of the nutrition information on the label is based on one serving of the food.

  • It may also tell you about the number of servings per container.

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Amount of Calories

  • If you consume more or less than the serving size, you’ll need to take that into account when estimating the calories you’re consuming.

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Nutrients

  • The nutrients that must be included are: Total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, sugars, added sugars, protein, calcium, vitamin D, iron, and potassium.

  • Labels may also include information like other nutrients, or calories from fats, fiber, sugar, alcohol, other carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

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Percent Daily Values

This tells you how much one serving of the food contributes towards meeting the daily requirement for that nutrient.

  • 5%DV or less means the food is low in a nutrient.

  • 10% to 19%DV means the food is a “good source” of a nutrient.

  • 20%DV or greater means the food is high in a nutrient.

Other Important Considerations

The Ingredient List

This includes all the ingredients in a food by weight.

Image of ingredient list on a packaged food product

Food Allergen Labeling

The law requires that manufacturers list the major allergens, which include milk, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, and soybeans.

food label

Other Information

  • production and expiration dates

  • storage recommendations

  • other health or nutrition claims

Quiz

What information must be included by law on a food label?

Food allergen list

Nutrition facts table

Ingredients list

All of these

Foods Exempt From Labeling

  • fresh vegetables and fruits

  • raw meat, poultry, fish, and seafood

  • foods prepared or processed in-store (bakery items, sausages, salads)

  • foods that contain very few nutrients (tea, coffee, vinegar, or spices)

  • alcohol

A bakery displayPhoto by Miti on Unsplash

Take Action

Make food labels work for you!

The next time you go grocery shopping, pay attention to the food labels. Support your specific health needs and learn to make healthier choices.

cartoon man fighting off junk food

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This Byte has been authored by

CK

Chitra Krishnan

Lifelong Learner