When it comes to making smart decisions about what to eat, understanding the three essential components of a food label is essential. The serving size, ingredient list, and daily value (DV) are the three most important pieces of information to look for on a nutrition label. The serving size is the amount that is usually consumed at one time. It's important to note that the nutrition information provided is based on this serving size.
The ingredient list includes all the ingredients, ordered from most predominant to least predominant (by weight). This is where consumers can find information about the contents of their food, such as allergies or if a product is a whole grain product. The daily value (DV) is an approximate recommendation for the daily intake of a nutrient, developed by the FDA for use on food labels. It's a simplified recommendation, with a single value instead of several for different age and sex groups, as found in the DRI.
This helps consumers make the best decision about how much to eat, perhaps when they want to eat this food or how they can better balance their food choices throughout the day. In addition to the information required by the FDA on food labels, it is common for them to be peppered with statements about the nutrient content of foods and the supposed health benefits of eating them. For example, a food with a “low sodium” statement must have 140 mg of sodium or less per serving, while a food with a “low sodium” statement must have at least 25 percent less sodium than the standard product. The DV isn't as accurate as the RDA, so while the %DV is useful for comparing food products or making quick judgments about the nutritional value of a food, it's best to use the RDA if you're looking for your individual nutritional needs. Once you get used to reading nutrition labels on foods, they can become an invaluable tool in helping you maintain a healthy and balanced diet. People with food allergies should check the ingredient lists to avoid foods that may cause an allergic reaction.
Understanding these three essential parts of a food label can help you make informed decisions about what you eat and ensure that you are getting all of your nutritional needs met. It's important to remember that nutrition labels are just one part of making healthy eating decisions. Eating a variety of foods from all five food groups and limiting processed foods and added sugars are also important factors in maintaining good health. Additionally, consulting with your doctor or dietitian can help you determine your individual nutritional needs.