Understanding Good Food Choices

Food labels

When you're reading food labels, it helps to know what the words really mean. The terms are based on one serving size. So it's important to read the nutrition label because a food container (jar, bottle, can) may have more than one serving. Here are some definitions of common food label terms.

If a label says . . .

It means . . .

Calorie free

Less than 5 calories per serving

Low calorie

40 calories or less per serving

Fat free

Less than ½ g fat per serving

Low fat

3 g or less fat per serving

Sugar free

Less than ½ g sugar per serving

Cholesterol free

Less than 2 mg cholesterol and 2 g or less saturated fat per serving

Low cholesterol

20 mg or less cholesterol and 2 g or less saturated fat per serving


At least 25% less of a certain nutrient or calories than the regular product

Low sodium

140 mg or less sodium per serving

High fiber

5 g or more fiber per serving

High in

20% or more of the daily value of a certain nutrient per serving

Good source of

10% to 19% of the daily value of a certain nutrient per serving

Good nutrition means more than simply eating an apple a day. Think in terms of your food choices throughout the entire day, from breakfast to bedtime. All foods, including your favorites, can fit into a healthy eating plan.

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Good nutrition basics

Remember these key points:

  • Balance. Eat a mix of different types of food. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Then fill your plate with one-quarter protein and one-quarter whole grains.

  • Variety. Choose a wide range of foods of different colors.

  • Flexibility. Find an eating plan that fits your schedule and tastes.

  • Moderation. Don't eat too much of any one food. For the majority of your meals, beverages, and snacks, choose those lower in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.

© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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