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How to read food labels

Food label for oatmeal

Use the nutrition label for oatmeal below to understand the following.

Illustration 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, 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: Fat provides your body with calories.

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 (the "good") 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 salt can lead to high blood pressure. One teaspoon of salt has 2,400 milligrams of salt. This is all you need each day.

Total carbohydrates: 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 carbohydrates.

Protein: Choose lean meats, poultry and fish.


Source: Allina Patient Education, 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: 04/02/2009

Reviewed by: Allina Patient Education experts