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Of course, you are not literally what you eat, what you eat can and will affect your health and well-being.  So, it is important to know what to look for in the foods that you put in your body. 1  Many things you add to your grocery cart have labels that will tell you a great deal about the product…if you know how to read them.  That is exactly why this article is all about how to read food labels.  Thus, the following is a sample label with an explanation about each piece of it and what it means:

labels tell you what is in the food you are eatingServing size

In this particular product,  one serving is 4oz of beef.  All of the nutrition information that follows thus refers to eating 40z.  For example, you can see that there is 17g of fat in one serving, or 1 40z serving.

Servings per container

The number of servings in the package “varies” but many labels of foods like cookies, would tell you how many cookies there are.


The number of calories (or energy) in 1 serving.  Be careful here because unused calories are stored as fat2  In this case, a serving represents a whopping 12% of the calories of an “average” daily diet1.

Calories from fat

The number of calories in one serving that come directly from fat.   Naturally, this should only be a small percent of your total calories. 3  In this case it is kind of high as you might expect from beef.2  

Total fat

The total amount of fat in one serving.  Thus, it includes saturated fat, trans-fat and unsaturated fat.  The amount of unsaturated fat is simply total fat –trans fat – saturated fat.3  Total fat should be limited, but seafood or nut products which are high in fat but low in trans and saturated fat are still very healthy choices due to the high omega-3 content. 3

Saturated fat

The amount of saturated fat in one serving.  Of course, this should be low or zero. 4

Trans fat

The amount of trans-fat in one serving.  This should be low as well.  Although zero is best. 5


The amount of cholesterol in one serving.  Keep this low or zero. 6 (p.542)


the amount of “salt” in one serving.  Look for a percentage of 5 or less and a total daily intake of less than 2300mg; 1500mg or less if you are of African descent, over 50 or have other risk factors for heart disease7

Total carbohydrates

The amount of carbohydrates in one serving.  In fact, this includes complex carbohydrates, sugars and fiber.  So, to find the amount of complex carbohydrates, simply subtract the sugars and fiber from the total carbohydrates.4

Dietary fiber

The amount of fiber in one serving.  Of course, the higher the better, but at least 25-30g per day for most adults 8,9.


The amount of sugar in one serving; the lower the better. 10 (p.75)  Men should look to get no more than 150 calories daily from sugar and for women, about 100. 11


The amount of protein in one serving.  Look to get at least 35g for every 100lbs of bodyweight 6.  But, you should get up to 1g for every lb. of bodyweight if you are active.