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Percent Daily Value (%) on Nutrition Labels: Quick Guide to Reading Food Label

By March 15, 2008 - 1:20pm
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I am forever forgetting the quick & easy way to know if a packaged food is healthy, when reading the Nutrition Label. I try to limit my purchase of packaged foods (which I haven't succeeded in, but it's a nice sounding goal, right?!). The cereal aisle is notorious for being a major place of confusion, as the "healthy" range of cereals is broad. We know cereal should have "low sugar", but how many grams is that, again?

If you can remember just two numbers, they will help you immensely while you are standing in the grocery aisle, reading the food labels:


Those are the numbers to remember when reading through the Percent (%) Daily Value column on the right side of the Nutrition Label.

5% is low for a nutrient
20% is high for a nutrient

Some of the nutrients you want high (above 20%):
fiber, vitamins and minerals

Some of the nutrients you want low (below 5%):
fat, cholesterol, sodium

That's it! I get confused with learning about how many grams I'm supposed to (or not supposed) to consume in a day for a particular nutrient vs. what the percentages mean, etc. It's part of my philosophy (or laziness ?) of not wanting to count calories and carbs, but trying to be a good consumer and choose foods that are generally healthier to eat.

Do you have any tricks for reading Nutrition Food Labels?

Add a Comment2 Comments

Thanks for the tip, Alison. I was never really that conscious of my mental rule of thumb, but 5/20 makes it easier to determine what's good or not on those "pesky labels."

I do look for serving size and wonder how someone determines that. I like the 100-calorie packs of snacks on the market, but I fear they could be an excuse to overindulge, anyway.

March 19, 2008 - 5:39pm
HERWriter Guide

One thing I make sure to do is read how many servings are in the pack. It seems great to read "200 calories and 5 grams of fat per serving" until you are finished gobbling it up and glance at the package before you throw it away. "Servings per package - 4". Wait! Now I ate 800 calories and 20 grams of fat in one small pack!

So don't forget to read the 'servings' area.

March 19, 2008 - 12:08pm
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