How to read nutrition labels

Nutrition labels can be helpful when it comes to making healthy eating decisions. The information they provide can guide you on which products are best for you and your family. But understanding how to read a nutrition label can seem daunting if you don't have a degree in nutrition.

To make it easy, we've put together this step-by-step guide, so you can feel like a pro the next time you head to the supermarket. 

Your step-by-step guide to reading nutrition labels

1. Check the serving size

How many servings are in the container? A serving may be smaller than you think. A package may also appear to only contain a single serving, but it could contain multiple servings. Try to stick to just one serving. All the nutrition info — including calories — refer to the amount in one serving.

2. Check the calories in one serving

40 calories is low, 100 calories is moderate, 400 calories or more is high. Remember: If you eat multiple servings, you'll need to multiply the calories by the number of serving that you eat. 

3. Check the % Daily Value

The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice. Low is 5% or less. Aim for low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars. High is 20% or more. Aim high in vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.

4. Check the ingredients

Ingredients are listed by volume. The higher up on the list an ingredient is, the more of it the product contains. Make sure sugar isn’t one of the first ingredients listed. Sugar goes by many names, including high-fructose corn syrup, barley malt syrup and dehydrated cane juice, to name a few.

Key nutrients

The nutrients shown on a nutrition label can impact your health in a positive or negative way, so it’s important to know which ones to limit and which ones to eat more of.

What nutrients should I limit?

Saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars are nutrients that you should cut down on. These nutrients can increase your risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. 

Which nutrients should I eat more of?

Dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium are nutrients you should strive to eat more of. These nutrients are essential for good health. For example, dietary fiber can help to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels as well as help to keep you feeling fuller for longer. And, by boosting your diet with vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium, you can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis, anemia, and high blood pressure.

Total vs. Added Sugars

Total sugars include both added and natural sugars. Naturally occurring sugars are found in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose). Added sugars, on the other hand, are added during food processing and are the ones you want to limit. 

The New Mayo Clinic Diet makes it easy to eat healthy

Are you ready to show off your nutrition label reading skills? You can put them to good use the next time you’re shopping for your favorite New Mayo Clinic Diet recipe!

The New Mayo Clinic Diet’s flexible meal plans not only fit into any lifestyle, but are healthy and easy to plan for. With easy-to-find ingredients that are light on your wallet, combined with quick prep times, you’ll be saving money and eating delicious meals while losing weight. Plus, the New Mayo Clinic Diet features a food tracker, so you can easily document all your meals.

Our team of dietitians has developed seven different meal plans that allow you to find and follow an eating style that suits your taste and diet preferences. The New Mayo Clinic Diet meal plans encourage eating unlimited servings of vegetables and fruits throughout the day. The sky’s the limit on how you choose to snack on them!

Wondering what a day on a plate looks like? Have a look at a sample of the Original Mayo Clinic Diet meal plan.

Which plan is right for you?

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