All packaged foods and beverages in the U.S. have food labels. These "Nutrition Facts" labels can help you make smarter food choices and eat a healthy diet.
Before you read the food label, you should know a few things:
- Serving size is based on how much people usually eat and drink at one time
- Number of servings tells you how many servings are in the container. Some labels will give you information about calories and nutrients for both the whole package and each serving size. But many labels just tell you that information for each serving size. You need to think about the serving size when you decide how much to eat or drink. For example, if a bottle of juice has two servings and you drink the whole bottle, then you are getting twice the amount of sugar that is listed on the label.
- Percent daily value (%DV) is a number that helps you understand how much of a nutrient is in one serving. Experts recommend that you get certain amount of different nutrients daily. %DV tells you what percentage of the daily recommendation you get from one serving of a food. With this, you can figure out if a food is high or low in a nutrient: 5% or less is low, 20% or more is high.
The information on a food label can help you see how a certain food or drink fits into your overall diet. The label lists, per serving,
- The number of calories
- Fats, including total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat
- Carbohydrates, including fiber, total sugar, and added sugar
- Vitamins and Minerals
Food and Drug Administration
- Additives In Meat and Poultry Products (Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service)
- Nutrition Facts for Cooked Seafood (Food and Drug Administration) - PDF
- Nutrition Facts for Raw Fruits (Food and Drug Administration) - PDF
- Nutrition Facts for Raw Vegetables (Food and Drug Administration) - PDF
- Confused by Date Labels on Packaged Foods? (Food and Drug Administration) Also in Spanish
- Food Product Dating (Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service) Also in Spanish
- Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods (Food and Drug Administration)
- Have Food Allergies? Read the Label (Food and Drug Administration)
- How Many Calories? Look at the Menu! (Food and Drug Administration) Also in Spanish
- Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms (Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service) Also in Spanish
- Natural Flavorings on Meat and Poultry Labels (Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service) Also in Spanish
- Nutrient Content Claims (American Diabetes Association)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Food Labeling (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Health and nutrition claims for infant formula are poorly substantiated and...
- Article: Randomized trial evaluating the effectiveness of within versus across-category front-of-package lower-calorie...
- Article: Potential effect of different nutritional labels on food choices among mothers:...
- Food Labeling -- see more articles
- Figuring Out Food Labels (For Kids) (Nemours Foundation)
- Food Labels for Infants under Two (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)
- Food Labels Tell the Story! (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences)
- Nutrition Facts Label: Read the Label (Tips for Parents) (Food and Drug Administration) - PDF Also in Spanish