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How to Dissect the Food Label

Learn to Read a Food Label

Step 1

Find where the label is located on the food package.

Step 2

Locate the top of the label where it says "Nutrition Facts". Read the label from top to bottom beginning with the line that says "Serving Size," which is located directly under "Nutrition Facts". The serving size is important because this measurement is what everything else on the label is based on.

Step 3

Move down the label to check "Calories." This line gives you the number of calories per serving as well as the number of fat calories. For a simple calorie guide, 40 calories per serving is considered low, 100 calories per serving is moderate and 400 calories per serving is high. If you eat more than one serving, the calorie intake will go up. For example, if a serving is one cup and contains 500 calories, two servings would be two cups and 1,000 calories.

Step 4

Scan the label to the next line which reads "% Daily Value." This can be found on the right side of the label. The Percent Daily Value or DV helps you determine if a serving of food is high or low in a nutrient. Move down another line and you will see that the label has been split into two columns. The nutrients are listed on the left side. The information on the right side is the percentage of each of these nutrients in one serving.

Step 5

Familiarize yourself with these nutrients: "Total Fat" grams, which are broken down into "Trans Fat" and "Saturated Fat," milligrams of "Cholesterol" and "Sodium" and grams of "Total Carbohydrate," which are broken down into "Fiber" and "Sugars." With the exception of "Fiber," these are the things you want to limit in a healthy diet. Health experts recommend keeping your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol as low as possible. The last nutrient on this list is "Protein," which is measured in grams. Proteins are essential in the building, maintenance and repair of body tissues. The suggested number of grams of protein per day depends on your weight and activity level.

Step 6

Notice the solid black line located underneath the last line, "Proteins." The nutrients that appear under this line are nutrients the Food and Drug Administration recommends you get enough of. They include vitamins A and C, and calcium and iron. Fiber is also included in this group. To know if you are ingesting the recommended amount of these nutrients, look at the percentage per serving. For example, if a serving contains 20 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A, you still need to ingest 80 percent more vitamin A to reach the 100 percent mark.

Step 7

Move down to the bottom of the label where you will see what is referred to as the footnote, which explains that the nutrient information on the label is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This information must appear on all food labels. If the label is large enough, the full footnote may appear, telling you the recommended levels of Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium and Total Carbohydrates. According to the Food and Drug Administration, this information doesn’t change from product to product, because it shows recommended diet advice for all Americans – it is not about a specific food product.

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