Things to Look for First
Servings per Container: Servings per container tells you how many servings are in the package.
Serving Size: The serving size is how much a person usually eats or drinks.
In this food label, the container has 14 servings and each serving is 1 slice of bread.
Calories: Calories provide our bodies with energy. The three nutrients that provide calories are carbohydrates (carbs), fats, and protein.
How to Use the Serving Size Information
In this example, the serving size is 1 slice of bread, so 1 slice will provide you with 100 calories, 21 grams of carbs, and the same amounts listed of all other items on the Nutrition Facts label.
If you eat 2 slices, you are having 2 servings. This means you get 2 times the nutrients, so 200 calories, 42 grams of carbs, and double the other items listed.
Ingredients: Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. This means that the ingredient used the most is listed first and the ingredient that is used the least is listed last.
Percent Daily Value: Daily Value (%DV) is based on the amount of the nutrient you should eat in a whole day. An easy rule of thumb:
5% DV or less per serving means you are getting a low source of that nutrient. For nutrients you want to get less of, such as sodium and saturated fat, look for less than 5% DV.
20% DV per serving or higher is considered a high source of the nutrient. For nutrients you want to get more of, such as fiber, vitamin D, calcium, and iron, look for 20% DV or more.
Saturated Fat: This fat is typically found in animal products and tropical oils. Saturated fat can raise cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease. Aim for foods low in saturated fat (less than 5% DV).
Sodium: The body uses sodium in many ways, but too much sodium can increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Limit this number to less than 2,300 mg per day (equal to about 1 teaspoon of salt). If you have been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) your goal may be lower.
Total Carbohydrate: This number includes all carbs: sugar (natural and added), starch, and fiber. The carbs you eat affect blood glucose (also called blood sugar) levels, so use the Total Carbohydrate number if counting carbs. When eating carbs, choose carbs from vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fruits instead of from refined grains and added sugar.
Dietary Fiber: A type of carb, this nutrient can improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and bowel function. Aim for foods high in fiber (more than 20% DV).
Added Sugars: This number shows the grams of sugar added to a product from sugar, syrups, and caloric sweeteners. Aim for little to no added sugar when picking most food and beverages.
For more detailed information about the nutrition label and healthy eating, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian or visit diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition.
This handout was published in Clinical Diabetes, Vol. 41, issue 2, 2023, and was adapted from the American Diabetes Association’s patient education handout “Nutrition for Life: Making Choices Using Food Labels.” Visit the Association’s Patient Education Library at professional.diabetes.org/PatientEd for hundreds of free, downloadable handouts in English and Spanish. Distribute these to your patients and share them with others on your health care team. Copyright American Diabetes Association, Inc., 2023.