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How to read food labels

Food label for a granola bar

Use the nutrition label for a granola bar below to understand the following.

Example of a nutrition facts label

Serving size: The serving size lists how many calories and nutrients are in one serving of the food. If you eat twice the serving size, you are getting twice the calories, fat, carbs, sodium, etc.

Calories and calories from fat: Calories are a measure of energy released by a food. Try to limit your food choices to those that have less than one-third calories from fat.

Total fat: Total fat includes all types of fat. Try to eat foods low in saturated and trans fat.

Saturated fat: Saturated fat raises LDL (the "bad") cholesterol. Reduce saturated fats to help protect your heart.

Trans fat: Trans fats can raise LDL cholesterol, lower HDL cholesterol, and add to heart disease. Eat as little trans fats as possible. Avoid foods that contain "partially hydrogenated" and "hydrogenated" oils, including shortening.

Cholesterol: Foods from animals (meat, fish, eggs, cheese, butter) have cholesterol.

Sodium: Too much sodium (salt) can lead to high blood pressure. One teaspoon of salt has 2,300 milligrams of sodium. This is the upper limit most people need each day.

Total carbohydrate: Carbohydrates give your body energy. However, too many can raise your blood glucose.

Fiber: If the food has 5 or more grams of fiber, subtract half of the grams from the total carbohydrate.

Sugar: Sugar is included in the number of total carbohydrate.

Protein: Choose lean meats, poultry and fish.


 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Prediabetes: Reducing Type 2 Diabetes Risk Through a Lifestyle of Good Nutrition and Activity, first edition, dia-ahc-94403

First published: 04/02/2009
Last updated: 04/01/2014

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts