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For your health: 'Don't fear the food label'



Arkansas A new survey by the National Institutes of Health indicated nearly 60% of Americans admitted they don’t know how to read food labels. Another 40% said they only partially understand the information.  

“We don’t have to fear the food label. It’s chock-full of really good information – energy, nutrients, and adequacy,” shared registered dietitian nutritionist Angela Lemond.

The average American needs about 400 to 800 calories per meal, according to Lemond. And food labels help people stay within their ideal range. Understanding them however, is challenging for some. 


When looking at the Nutrition Facts label, first look at the number of servings in the package (servings per container) and the serving size. Serving sizes are standardized to make it easier to compare similar foods; they are provided in familiar units, such as cups or pieces, followed by the metric amount, e.g., the number of grams (g). The serving size reflects the amount that people typically eat or drink. It is not a recommendation of how much you should eat or drink.

It’s important to realize that all the nutrient amounts shown on the label, including the number of calories, refer to the size of the serving. Pay attention to the serving size, especially how many servings there are in the food package.

Click here to learn your estimated calorie needs. 

Food labels also show some key nutrients that impact health. People can use the label to support their personal dietary needs. Saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars are nutrients listed on the label that may be associated with adverse health effects – and Americans generally consume too much of them. They are identified as nutrients to get less of.

“You want to be mindful of things that contribute to heart disease like saturated fat and added sugars. The food label requires us to look at the types of fat and carbohydrates,” said Lemond.

Click here for more label-reading skills.

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