How to Read Food Labels for Better Health

How to Read Food Labels for Healthy Eating

Reading food labels helps you make better health choices.


Why read food labels?

Reading the back of food and drink packages helps you improve your health and manage your weight by letting you know what’s in your food so that you can choose more of what’s good for you.


How to Read Food Labels for Better Health

For better health, choose foods that have more vitamins and minerals and that are low in sugar, salt, bad fats and cholesterol.

Low = 5% or less

High = 20% or more

(look for the % daily value on the right side of the food label)Nutrition Facts

  1. Try not to have too much food from the package at one time. Try not to have more than the amount of food it says next to “Serving Size.” Serving size if the amount recommended for one person to have at one time. This way you’re not getting too many calories and it’s easier for you to manage your weight.
  2. Choose more low calorie meals and snacks. Low calorie meals are less than 400 calories. Low calorie snacks are less than 120 calories. Fruits and vegetables are great because most are low in calories and keep you feeling full for longer.
  3. Choose foods and drinks that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, salt, cholesterol and sugar. Low is 5% or less. Try to have foods that are low in saturated fat and trans fats (1g or less). Sodium is salt. Try to have foods that are low in salt or sodium (140 mg or less). Try to have foods that are low in cholesterol (20mg or less). Too much sugar is bad for your health and can also make it hard for you to lose or maintain weight. Look for packages that say “No Added Sugars,” “Without Added Sugars,” “Unsweetened,” or “No Added Sweeteners.
  4. Choose more foods high in healthy vitamins and minerals: High is 20% or more. Try to have more foods that have more or high levels of vitamins and minerals like Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Calcium, Vitamin C, Potassium and Iron. Look for packages that say “Good Source,” “Provides,” “Excellent Source,” “Rich In,” “Contains,” “Fortified,” or “Enriched.”

It also helps to check the ingredient list. The list always starts with the ingredients that the food or drink has the most of. Try to stay away from foods and drinks that have high fructose corn syrup in the ingredient list. It also helps to choose foods with a short ingredient list. If you see too many ingredients on the back of the package, it probably isn’t good for you.


More Help…

✧ Guides: Nutrition Facts Label (learn more), Choose My Plate (healthy eating and exercise)

Support Groups: Super Tracker (healthy eating and exercise), How to Get Food Help (help for people of all ages)

Talk to your doctor or health care provider for more information. 

If you don’t have a doctor or insurance, you can get help at a health center near you.

cell phone

Call (800) – 5 – HUNGRY or (800) – 548 – 6479 for help finding free food in your area. You can also text your zip code to (800) – 548 – 6479 for help.

Call 2-1-1 for 24/7 help finding more programs, services and all kinds of help near you.




Food Labeling Guide. U.S. Food and Drug Administration web site. Accessed April 26, 2017.

Page last reviewed: April 26, 2017
Page last updated: April 28, 2017

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