How to read nutrition labels

Nutrition labels are on the packages of most foods. They offer information that can help you make better food choices, which in turn will help you control your blood sugar and stay at a healthy weight.

Serving Size
• The numbers on a nutrition label are based on a certain amount of the food, called the serving size. In this example the serving size is ½ cup.
• The serving size of food is almost always less than the amount of food in the package. Paying attention to serving size is key if you are trying to lose weight.

Calories
• This tells you how many calories each serving of this food will add to your daily total.
– Your size and activity level help determine the total number of calories you need every day.

Fats and cholesterol
• Choose foods with less than 30% of calories from fat. Foods with more than 30% fat are considered high fat.
• Most people with diabetes should eat less than 15 grams of saturated fat each day. If possible, avoid foods with saturated fat or trans fat.
• Limit yourself to less than 200 mg of cholesterol a day.

Sodium
• Limit the amount of sodium (salt) you eat to less than 2,400 mg each day. Start by using less (or no) table salt.

Carbohydrates, Fiber, and Sugars
• Carbohydrates (carbs) are your body’s main source of energy.
• You need some carbs in your diet every day. Do not stop eating them. Make a plan with your dietitian or nutritionist for how many carbohydrates to eat daily, and ask how to count carbohydrates.
• Eat a variety of foods that contain fiber to reach 25 to 30 grams each day.
• Foods labeled sugar-free may still be high in calories and carbs.
• To control your blood sugar, watch your total carbohydrate grams rather than your sugar grams.

Protein
• Most adults get enough protein every day but need to choose the right kinds of protein.
– Choose lean meats, low-fat dairy foods, or meat substitutes (such as tofu or beans) for most of your protein.
– Protein from animal sources contains both fat and cholesterol.

Vitamins and Minerals
Choose a variety of healthy foods to get 100% of your vitamins and minerals.

Percent Daily Values
• The Percent (%) Daily Value tells you how well a food provides your daily needs.
• The Percent Daily Values apply to people who eat 2,000 calories each day.

Provided as an educational resource by Merck