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Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond

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First trimester: Label reading

Reading the labels on packaged foods will help you choose these foods wisely. You will be able to quickly see if the item is a good source of nutrients.

How to read a food label

Nutrition Facts label
  1. Serving size lists how many calories and nutrients are in one serving of the food. In the example at right, there are about 13 servings per container of oatmeal. If you are eating twice the serving size, you are getting twice the calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium, etc.
  2. Nutrients shows how much protein, fiber and vitamins are in each serving. You can also find amounts for fat, cholesterol and sodium. If you are on a special diet, this information will be helpful.
  3. Percent daily value percentages are based on a 2,000-calorie diet and may vary from what you need now that you are pregnant. However, the numbers help you quickly see if the food is a good or poor source of the nutrient listed. The higher the percentage, the more of the nutrient is in the food. The oatmeal in the example label is a good source of fiber and iron. It is not a good source of vitamins A and C or calcium.
  4. Daily values chart lists the recommended amounts for fats, carbohydrates, cholesterol and sodium. They are a good general reference. Talk with your health care provider for your specific needs.

Remember: Eat as little trans fat as possible. Read the ingredients lists on food labels. Avoid products with hydrogenated vegetable oil and partially hydrogenated oil. Choose foods that have as close to 0 grams trans fat as possible.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8; U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Nutrition Facts Label Programs and Materials

First published: 06/01/2003
Last updated: 08/22/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Departments experts