How to Read Nutrition Facts Labels on Food Products

Mar 8 2023
Between the enticing front-of-package claims, number-heavy nutrition panels, and wordy ingredients lists, the info on food packages can be hard to understand. It’s easy to get swayed by marketing claims or caught up in the ingredients, but stick to the FACTS—the nutrition facts panel, that is! Here’s what you need to know...

Serving Size

This information is critical! It’ll tell you how much of that food or drink you can have for the stats listed on the panel. And here’s a little-known fact: The most accurate measurement is often given by weight. For a perfect portion, toss it on a food scale!

Servings per Container

People often overlook this one, but it’s crucial to accurate calorie counting. The number of calories—as well as the amount of fat, carbs, etc.—is only accurate if you stick to one portion. Many snack-size packages appear to be a single serving but actually contain two or three. Check this number, and do the math.


This is arguably the most important number on the panel, especially when it comes to weight management. The number of calories listed is the sum of calories from fat, carbs, and protein, aka the big three macronutrients. Don’t worry about adding all that up... The label does it for you!

Total Fat

This includes saturated, trans, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. To know how much healthy fat you’re getting, subtract the saturated and trans grams from the total fat. Genius!


According to the FDA, your daily sodium intake should stay under 2,300mg. Amounts vary among seemingly identical products, so shop and compare. And be on the lookout for sneaky sources of sodium!

Total Carbohydrates

Watching carbs? Let’s break ‘em down. The total number is the sum of sugar, sugar alcohols, starch, and fiber. If you subtract sugar, sugar alcohols (if listed), and fiber, you’ll get an idea of how many grams of starchy carbs the food contains.

Dietary Fiber

This number is the combination of soluble (digestible) and insoluble (not digestible) fibers. Soluble fiber makes you feel full, and the rest keeps things moving through your system. Most people don’t get enough fiber, so choose whole grains and high-fiber foods whenever you can.

Total Sugars

Prepare to be shocked at how much sugar some seemingly innocent foods contain. The sugars tally includes the naturally occurring kind (in fruit or milk) plus any sugars added during processing. An FDA rule now requires brands to list how much of that sugar is “Added Sugars,” so you can see for yourself where the sugar is coming from.


We love the long-lasting energy you get from a protein-packed meal or snack! And more protein means fewer calories are coming from fat and carbs. (Remember, the total calorie count is a combination of all three macronutrients.)

The Ingredients List

Ingredients are listed in order by weight from greatest to smallest amount. So, if a food contains a questionable ingredient, but it’s way at the bottom of a long list, chances are it has only a limited amount of that ingredient. It’s up to you to determine if the product is right for you based on the big picture.

Chew on this:

Did you know that March is National Sauce Month? The sauce for this Spicy Asian Pork Tenderloin has huge flavor and is super easy to mix up. Use it on everything!

Let your friends in on this valuable info too—pass it on!


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