The deal with food labels
You've probably seen the Nutrition Facts label on many food packages. The label has several parts. You can use it to help limit those nutrients you want to cut back on. You can also use it to increase those nutrients you need more of. For instance, you may want to eat less saturated fat but more calcium.
Other labels on foods you eat
Some foods have labels such as "fat-free," "reduced calorie," or "light." But what do they all mean?
- Low-calorie — 40 calories or less per serving
- Reduced-calorie — at least 25 percent fewer calories per serving compared with a similar food
- Light or lite — one-third fewer calories; if more than half the calories are from fat, fat content must be reduced by 50 percent or more
- Sugar-free — less than 1/2 gram sugar per serving
- Reduced sugar — at least 25 percent less sugar per serving compared with a similar food
- Fat-free or 100 percent fat free — less than 1/2 gram fat per serving
- Low-fat — 3 grams or less per serving
- Reduced-fat — at least 25 percent less fat when compared with a similar food
It's important to remember that fat-free doesn't mean calorie free. People tend to think they can eat as much as they want of fat-free foods. Even if you cut fat from your diet, but take in more calories than you use, you will gain weight. Also, fat-free or low-fat foods may have high amounts of added sugars or sodium to make up for the loss of flavor when fat is removed. For example, a fat-free muffin may be just as high in calories as a regular muffin. So, remember, it is important to read your food labels and compare products.
Content last reviewed September 22, 2009
Page last updated October 31, 2013