Here are the key steps for using the Nutrition Facts label:
Check the serving size and number of servings. The serving size for a food is based on the amount of that food that people usually eat at one time. Serving sizes are standardized for similar kinds of food so that you can compare the nutritional value of these foods. So, for instance, all cans of peaches should have the same serving size.
Pay attention to the number of calories. On the label, you'll find the number of calories per serving and the number of calories from fat in each serving.
The Nutrition Facts label shows the % (percentage) Daily Value (% DV) of certain nutrients contained in one serving of the food. The % DVs are based on a daily diet of 2,000 calories. You may need more or less than 2,000 calories per day. Still, the % DVs gives you a general idea of whether a food is low or high in a certain nutrient. Five percent or less is low; 20 percent or more is high.
Look for foods that are low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Trans fat doesn't have a % DV. But you should eat as little of it as possible.
Look for foods that are high in dietary fiber.
Look for foods that are high in potassium, vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. Some food labels also show % DVs for other vitamins and minerals. You'll want to choose foods that are high in those nutrients as well.
When choosing a food for its protein content (such as red meat, poultry, dry beans, milk, and milk products), choose those that are lean, low-fat, or fat free.