How to read food labels

Example of a nutrition facts label

Use the nutrition label for a granola bar on this page to understand the following.

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: See Making good protein and fat choices.

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 sodium (salt) can lead to high blood pressure. One teaspoon of salt has 2,400 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. Learn more about eating healthy and  carbohydrate choices.

Fiber: If the food has five 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, Basic Skills for Living with Diabetes, sixth edition
First Published: 11/27/2006
Last Reviewed: 01/09/2015