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Read food labels

By reading food labels you will become aware of what's in the foods you eat.

Nutrition Facts label

The following information explains how to read the oatmeal food label at left.

1. Serving size. The serving size lists how many calories and nutrients are in one serving of the food. In this example, there are about 13 servings of oatmeal per container. If you are eating twice the serving size, you are getting twice the calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium, etc.

2. Nutrients. Nutrients show how much sodium, fiber, sugars, fat, etc., is in each serving. If you are on a restricted diet, look at the nutrients the food contains.

3. Percent of daily value. Percent of daily value shows how the amount of a nutrient in a serving of food fits into a 2,000 calorie diet.

4. Daily values chart. Daily values for diets of 2,000 or 2,500 calories appear on the lower half of the food label. These numbers list the recommended limits on total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates and dietary fiber for your diet each day. Note: Your specific recommendations may vary from these (such as amount of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium).

Ingredients. The ingredient list is another important part of the nutrition label. It is found on the bottom of the label and shows the order of ingredients from greatest to least. When reading ingredient labels, try to avoid products that contain shortening, hydrogenated vegetable oil and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

When reading food labels, compare similar products to find the one with the least amount of saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. Buy products that are higher in fiber.

Label guidelines for fat content

When looking for low-fat foods, check the nutrition label for the amount of fat per serving and compare it to the guidelines listed below for the maximum grams of fat per serving.

Food choices

Maximum grams of fat per serving

Dinner entree10 grams of fat
Soup5 grams
Luncheon meats3 grams
Potato, rice, pasta, vegetable2 grams per ounce
Cheese2-6 grams per ounce
Yogurt3 grams
Crackers3 grams
Frozen desserts3 grams
Quick breads5 grams/serving
Cake2-5 grams/serving
Cookies3 grams/serving



Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Helping Your Heart, fourth edition, cvs-ahc-90648

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 06/01/2007

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts