Nutrition labels were designed to make it easier for you to select healthy foods, but the fine print can sometimes cause confusion. Next time you’re in the grocery store aisle, keep these tips in mind:

Serving size

Typically listed first on a label, serving size tells you the size of a single serving. Don’t forget: Nutrition information is listed per serving, not per package or container. For example, a can of soup might contain two servings. If you don’t have measuring cups on hand, here are some references to help:

• 1 cup: A baseball or an average-sized fist.
• 1⁄2 cup: A tennis ball or small, scooped handful.
• 3 ounces: The palm of the hand or the weight of a deck of cards.
• 1 tablespoon: The size of the thumb.
• 1 teaspoon: A postage stamp.


Lists the number of calories per serving. Needs vary, but on average, active women need about 2,000 calories per day while active men require about 2,500 calories per day.

Notice nutrients

Look for foods that contain important nutrients like fiber, potassium, vitamin D, calcium and iron. These help to maintain good health and reduce your risk for future health issues or deficiencies.

Focus on fats

Fats are listed as total fat, saturated fat and trans fat. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting your daily fat intake to fewer than 13 grams of saturated fat (for a 2,000-calorie diet) and as little trans fat as possible.

Minimize sodium

A high-sodium diet increases risk for high blood pressure. The AHA recommends limiting total sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams per day and requires that foods with the “heart healthy” label to contain fewer than 480 mg of sodium and fewer than 20 mg of cholesterol.

Understand the ingredients

Manufacturers must list all of the ingredients in their foods in order of volume (the largest amounts are listed first). Choose foods with “real” foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables listed first.

Understand Daily Values

Daily Value percent are average levels of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories a day. These can help guide you when choosing foods with higher (20 percent or more) or lower (5 percent or less) values.