Fresh Produce

Nutrition Label

It is said that eating healthy starts at the grocery store. As consumers, we are faced with A LOT of options when going grocery shopping. Marketing terms such as "low sugar" or "low in fat" may not always be the best option. It is important to understand how to read nutrition labels in order to choose the best foods that fit within our nutrition needs and not try to memorize any labels that claim certain health benefits. 

Nutrition labels provide FACTS and are not used as a guideline. We need to understand what our daily value percentages look like so that we can understand how to read a nutrition label.  We're going to  look at the different sections of a nutrition label to understand it a little better.

 

 

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These areas are:

  • Serving Size

  • Amount of Calories

  • Nutrients

  • Percentage Daily Value

  • Footnote

SERVING SIZE

It is important to be aware of the serving size of that particular product.   By law, serving sizes must be based on the amount of food people TYPICALLY consume, rather than how much they SHOULD consume. This may mean that one serving size might exceed the recommended daily value for what you need. For example, based on the review of relevant information such as nationwide surveys of the amounts of foods Americans eat, the serving size for soda has changed from 8oz to 12oz!

Keep in mind, serving size is NOT a recommendation of how much to eat or drink. Also keep in mind that one package of food may contain more than 1 serving.

AMOUNT OF CALORIES

This section refers to the total number of calories or "energy" you get from all sources (carbs, fat, protein, and alcohol) in a serving. It is scientifically proven that eating too many calories per day has been linked to overweight and obesity.  You can use calories to  track the amount of calories you are consuming so that you are not exceeding your daily limit. To find out how many calories you should be consuming in a day, click here.

Keep in mind that terms such as "fat-free" or "no added sugars" are NOT the same as "calorie-free".  Sometimes these terms may contain even more calories than regular versions of the items.

NUTRIENTS

This section shows the key nutrients that impact your health. You can use this to support your personal  dietary needs. You want to look for foods that contain more of the nutrients you want to get more of and less of the nutrients you want to limit (such as saturated fat, sodium and added sugars).

When picking the right foods, you want to pick items:

  • higher in fiber

  • contain vitamins and minerals

  • lower in saturated fat, sodium & sugar

  • contain ZERO trans fat

PERCENTAGE DAILY VALUE

This is the percentage of the daily value for each nutrient in a serving of food. The Daily Values tell you the amount (expressed in grams, milligrams or micrograms) nutrients to consume or not to exceed each day. This value uses a general guide of 2000 calories a day for nutrition advice. Your calorie needs may be higher or lower and vary depending on age, sex and physical activity. Use the Daily Value % or %DV as a general guide. Best way to use %DV as a guide is by following these rules:

  • 0-5%DV of a nutrient per serving is considered LOW

  • 20-+%DV of a nutrient per serving is considered HIGH

Some nutrients may not contain a %DV. Those include:

  • TRANS FAT: since 1998 the FDA banned this ingredient in the U.S. due to many studies resulting in a strong connection to heart disease.

  • PROTEIN: %DV is required to be listed only if the product claims anything that has to do with protein (ie: "high in protein"). %DV must also be listed in foods intended for infants to 4 years of age. Current research states protein is not a public health concern for adults and children ages 4 and up in the U.S. which is why it isn't required to be listed.

  • TOTAL SUGARS: according to the FDA, no recommendations have been made for total amount of sugar in one day. 

OVERALL

When looking at nutrition facts: 

Choose Items:

  • Higher in dietary fiber

  • Contain vitamins and minerals (Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Potassium)

Avoid Items:

  • Contain high amounts of Saturated Fat

  • Contain ANY Trans Fat

  • Contain high amounts of sodium and/or sugars (especially added sugars)

 

Want to learn more about the Nutrition Facts label? Here's an Interactive Nutrition Facts Label.