Learn How the Nutrition Facts Label Can Help You Improve Your Health

The Nutrition Facts labelexternal icon on packaged foods is based on updated science and dietary recommendationsexternal icon for Americans. Using the label can help you choose foods for a healthy diet. The label is required on all packaged foods made in the United States and imported from other countries.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued regulations in 2016 to update the Nutrition Facts label. This was the first major change to the label since it was introduced in 1994. Most items had the updated label by January 1, 2021.

Nutrition facts label

What changed?

Calories & Fat

Larger, darker letters make calories the easiest item to see. When it comes to health outcomes, the type of fat you eat matters more than the overall amount of fat. For this reason, the label shows percentages of calories from unhealthy saturated and trans fats rather than the percentage of calories from all fat.

Added Sugars

In addition to showing total percentage of calories from sugars, labels show the percentage from added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruit or milk, are not added sugars. Added sugars include brown sugar, maple sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, honey, malt syrup, and molasses.

Did you know that the two main sources of added sugars in the United States are sugary drinks and snacks and sweets, which includes candies and desserts? Less than 10% of your daily calories should be from added sugars. If you eat even one large dessert or sugary drink per day, then you are likely getting more than the recommended daily limit of added sugar.

Serving Size

Twenty years ago, people tended to eat smaller amounts than they do now. The updated serving size reflects what people are likely to eat or drink and not necessarily the portions they should eat.

For example, one serving size of ice cream is labeled as ⅔ cup. A 12–ounce or 20–ounce bottle of soda is labeled as one serving. The updated portion size gives people a more realistic view of the number of calories they are consuming.

Dual Column Labels

Some food and drink packages contain more than one serving, but a person may consume the contents of the whole package at one time, for example a pint of ice cream or a bag of chips. Two columns provide calorie and nutrition information for one serving and for the whole package.

Nutrients Required on Label

  • Vitamin D and potassium values are required.
  • Calcium and iron will continue to be required.
  • Vitamins A and C will no longer be required but can be included on a voluntary basis.

Slight Decrease in Sodium Allowance

Here are a few tips (based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025external icon) to help you make healthier choices about what you eat and drink.

  • Keep your intake of added sugars to less than 10% of your total daily calories. That means if you consume 2,000 calories in a day, added sugars should account for no more than 200 calories.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts labels on your packaged food and drinks to keep track of sugars, fats, protein, and other nutrients.
  • Most sodium we consume is from salt, and salt is commonly in processed foods. Read labels and choose the product with less sodium.
  • Drink plain water instead of sugary beverages. Read the product’s Nutrition Facts label and rethink your drink.
  • Limit the serving size of the treats. If you are going to have dessert, keep it small. Take the Portion Distortion Quizexternal icon and learn how food portion sizes have changed in 20 years.
  • Be sure you know how many servings are in food. For example, if you buy what looks like an individual sized chicken pie, check the Nutrition Facts label. It might actually be two servings. If you eat the whole pie, you will eat twice as many calories and twice as much sodium listed on the label.