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Using Food Labels

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, and Barbara Tharp, MS.

The Science Behind Food Labels

In this activity, students learned that food labels provide important information about the nutritional value of foods. Additional key points that may be conveyed by the activity include the following.

  • Serving size is the amount of food on which the nutrition facts are based. If someone eats more than the serving size, he or she will receive more of the calories and nutrients than the amounts shown on the label. Serving sizes often are smaller than the amount a typical person might eat.
  • Calories measure the amount of energy a food can provide. Most people need 2,000 to 2,500 calories each day to meet their energy needs.
  • Calories from Fat is the number of calories that come from fats and oils in a food.
  • Total Fat gives the weight of all the fat in one serving. Most people should have less than 65 g of fat each day. 
  • Saturated Fat indicates the weight of unhealthful fats in one serving. Common saturated fats are lard, butter, shortening and coconut oil.
  • Trans Fat is another unhealthy form of fat. It is created during the manufacturing of vegetable shortening and some margarines.
  • Sodium is the amount of salt in a food. Some people need to restrict the amount of salt in their diets.
  • Total Carbohydrate shows the amount sugars, starches and different kinds of fiber in one serving of the food. Most people eat too much sugar. Brown sugar, molasses, honey and corn syrup all are sugars.
  • Dietary fiber is important to health.
  • Protein is essential for building muscles and for many body functions.
  • Vitamins and Minerals are materials in food that are necessary for health. It is important to meet 100% of the daily requirements of vitamins and minerals by including 5–9 servings of fruits and vegetables in each day’s diet.


Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932