Using Food Labels As A Shopping Guide

Updated:Jun 29,2015

man reading food nutrition label in grocery store freezer sectionFood labels can provide you with a lot of very important information that you can use to make healthier food choices.

You can find out what ingredients are in foods and find out important nutrition information such as the number of calories in a serving and the number of servings in a container. You can also find out information on specific vitamins, minerals, and nutrients such as sodium.

Try these tips:

  • Many breads and cereals are now labeled on the front with high-fiber or whole-grain. Pick these and check the back of the packaging, too. Whole grains - whole-wheat flour, for example - should be listed as one of the first ingredients. The nutritional information also lists the percentage of your daily fiber in one serving size.
  • Pick foods that are lower in sodium, added sugars, and saturated and trans fats Read the nutritional information on the back for more information if you are focusing on increasing or reducing a specific nutrient.
  • Pick foods made without partially hydrogenated oils which can add trans fats to your foods.
  • Foods labeled low-fat often have higher levels of added sugar so be sure to check the nutritional information on the back of the packaging. Limit the amount of added sugar you consume by making sure sugar, fructose, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup are not primary ingredients on the ingredient list. The label will include natural sugars, like those found in milk and fruit, in the total amount of grams of sugar. Limit added sugar.
  • Pay attention to the serving size on the back of the package. A food may appear to be low in calories due to a very small serving size, but may not actually be. One package may have multiple servings.

Article copyright © 2016 American Heart Association. This recipe/article is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit

Last reviewed 1/2015