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Nutrition Labels

Nutrition LabelsThe "Nutrition Facts" label that's required on most foods is one way to monitor your food intake. The Food and Drug Administration made this label format mandatory on most food products in 1994. It's a quick way to get information about serving sizes, fat (including saturated fat), cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates and protein.

By carefully reading nutrition labels, you can make sure you're eating a balanced diet and not getting any surprises! The label is the best way to help uncover the "hidden" fat in many products, because it identifies the total grams of fat and saturated fat, as well as milligrams of cholesterol, in each serving.

Based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, the label also identifies the amount of calories a food derives from fat, as well as the percentage of recommended daily fat intake that represents. For example, look at the label below for part-skim mozzarella cheese. One serving (which is 1 oz. of a 1 lb. package) is 8% of the total fat allowed in a 2000-calorie diet. (If your calorie needs are lower, this percentage will be higher; if you need more than 2,000 calories, this percentage will be lower.) Remember, each food doesn't have to contain less than 30% calories from fat. Instead, the combination of the foods you eat over the course of several days should average no more than 30% calories from fat.

Reading the nutrition label can also help you better understand product package claims. "Lower in fat" may not mean "low-fat" (containing 3 grams or less of fat per serving). Products labeled lower fat, reduced fat 1/3 less fat, 50% less fat, light or "lite" may only be reduced from the full-fat products and still contain quite a bit of fat. Don't be fooled!

One last tip: Always note the serving size on the label. For instance, one serving of this 1 lb. package of this cheese is 1 oz. just 1/16 of the entire package. If you normally eat more than that amount, you're adding more fat and calories to your diet.

Sample Nutrition Label


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