How to Read Our Food Labels
Food labels provide you with the information about the Nutrition Facts Table (NFT), the ingredient list, nutrient content and/or health claims plus allergen statements. The NFT and the ingredient list are the foundation of label reading since together they provide an overview of what is in the food. Food labels are a valuable source of product-specific nutrition information, a tool to help you make food choices consistent with your dietary goals.
Nutrition Facts Table (NFT)
Nutrition information on food labels can support you in making informed food choices. Nutrition Fact Tables (NFTs) are mandatory on the labels of most prepackaged foods. NFTs help you compare the nutrient content per serving between foods and choose foods to meet your needs. The NFT provides you with information on the calories and 13 nutrients for the serving size shown.
What are the specific components on the NFT?
- Serving Size
The serving size tells you the size (in common household measures followed by metric measures) of the serving for which the nutrition information is given. If you eat the serving size shown on the NFT, you will get the amount of calories and nutrients that are listed. Always compare the serving size on the package to the amount that you eat.
Calories tell you how much energy you get from one serving size as stated on the label.
There are 13 core nutrients that must appear in the NFT. The nutrient information in the NFT is based on a specific amount of food (stated serving size). Vitamins and minerals are expressed only as a % DV based on a daily recommended intake. Most of the other nutrients are provided in grams or milligrams and as a %DV based on a reference standard. You can use this section to see whether the product contains certain nutrients you are trying to eat more or less of or avoid.
- Percent Daily Value (%DV)
The percent Daily Values (%DV) developed for nutrition labelling are generally based on recommendations for a healthy diet. The key is that you use the % DV as a benchmark to assist you in meeting your requirements. The Daily Values are set high enough to meet the nutrient needs on a population basis. Daily Values put the nutrients on a scale from 0% to 100%. This scale tells you if there is a little or a lot of a nutrient in stated serving size.
Remember - all this information (Calories, Nutrients and % DV) applies to one serving size as stated on the label.
The ingredient list tells you what ingredients are in a packaged food. The ingredient list also tells you whether the product contains common food allergens. All packaged food must list the ingredients used in the product. Ingredients are listed from most to least. The amount of ingredient is based on the weight of an ingredient, not the volume. For example, if the cracker label lists whole grains as the first ingredient, it means that the crackers contain more whole grains than any other ingredient. The ingredient list is helpful in identifying specifics such as the type of whole grains in the products (i.e. oats) or the sources of fat such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, allowing you to make the best food choice.