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How to Read Our Food Labels

Food labels help us interpret the big words surrounding nutrition information. Learning to decode the label helps you make informed food choices. The Nutrition Facts Table (NFT), picture left, lists ingredients, nutrient content and/or health claims plus alerts to allergens. Once you understand these, you know and understand what’s in your food.

Nutrition Facts Table (NFT)

Even though NFTs, by law, must appear on pre-packaged food labels it doesn’t mean that people can or do read them. But used wisely, they help you understand, evaluate, and compare the merits of different foods. So informed, you can choose which foods meet your needs. The NFT explains not just the calories but 13 important nutrients for the serving size.

What the NFT lists:

1) Serving Size
What you see isn’t always what you think you’re getting. Understand servings in typical household measures and by metric measurements. When you eat that listed serving size, you get that listed amount of calories and nutrients. Careful, though! Is the serving size on the package the same size that you choose you eat?

2) Calories
Learn how much energy one serving a single serving – as labeled – provides.

3) Nutrients
13 basic nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, must appear on the NFT by stated serving size. Vitamins and minerals are listed as % DV. This means percent of the Daily Value and it’s your recommended daily intake.

4) Percent Daily Value (%DV)
Use the %DV as a standard to guide you in getting your daily nutritional requirements. Daily Values rate nutrients on a percentage, from 0 to 100%. So you know how much of a given nutrient is in a single serving.

5) Ingredient List
This shows what’s in a packaged food and any common food allergens. Ingredients are listed in order from the greatest amount to the smallest. More important, ingredient amounts are rated by weight, not volume. Example? Say a bread label lists whole grains at the front of the list. That means the amount of whole grains outweighs any other ingredient.