How to Read Nutrition Labels PDF

Learn how to read nutrition labels with our comprehensive guide and template, designed for health professionals and patients to make informed dietary choices.

By Nate Lacson on Apr 08, 2024.

Fact Checked by RJ Gumban.

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What are nutrition labels?

Nutrition labels, also known as nutrition facts panels, are informative labels found on packaged food products that provide detailed information about the nutritional content of the food. These labels are mandated by regulatory authorities, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, to help consumers make informed choices about their diet.

Nutrition labels typically include information about serving size, calories, and the amounts of various nutrients such as fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, and protein. They also provide information about the percentage of daily values (%DV) for each nutrient, helping consumers understand how a serving of food fits into their daily diet.

The requirement for nutrition labels on packaged foods is part of regulations promoting public health. These regulations ensure that consumers have access to essential nutritional information, enabling them to compare different food products, manage their nutrient intake, and make healthier food choices. Reading nutrition labels is crucial for people with specific dietary needs or health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, who must closely monitor their intake of certain nutrients.

Printable How to Read Nutrition Labels PDF

Download this How to Read Nutrition Labels PDF to help you make healthier food choices.

Nutrition label sections

Nutrition labels are divided into several sections, each providing specific information about the nutritional content of the food product. Understanding these sections is critical to interpreting the label accurately. Here are the main sections you'll find on a nutrition label:

Serving size

This section indicates the amount of food considered a single serving. It's the basis for the nutritional information provided on the label. Serving sizes are standardized to make it easier to compare similar foods, but they may not reflect the portion size you typically consume.

Servings per container

This shows the total number of servings in the entire package. It helps you understand how many portions are in the whole package, which is especially important for larger packages that might be consumed over multiple sittings.


This section provides the total energy content in one serving of the food, measured in calories. It's crucial for managing energy intake, whether trying to lose weight, maintain weight, or fuel your body for physical activity.


The label lists several nutrients, including:

  • Total fat: Includes saturated fat, trans fat, and unsaturated fats. It's essential to monitor fat intake, particularly saturated and trans fats, to maintain heart health.
  • Cholesterol: Found in animal products, cholesterol intake should be limited to reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Sodium: Commonly found in salt, excessive sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure and other health issues.
  • Total carbohydrates: Includes sugars, starches, and dietary fiber. Carbohydrates are a primary energy source, but balancing intake and choosing complex carbs and fiber-rich foods is essential.
  • Protein: Essential for building and repairing tissues in the body. Protein intake should be adequate to support muscle health and overall body function.

Percent daily values (%DV)

This section shows how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a total daily diet based on a 2,000-calorie diet. The %DV helps you gauge whether a food is high or low in a particular nutrient. Generally, a %DV of 5% or less is considered low, while 20% or more is considered high.

By understanding these sections, you can make informed choices about your food intake and ensure a balanced and healthy diet.

How to read a nutrition label

Reading a nutrition label can initially seem daunting, but it's a valuable skill to help you make healthier food choices. Here's a step-by-step guide to understanding what each part of the label means:

Step 1: Check the serving size

Start by looking at the serving size and servings per container. This tells you the amount of food the nutrition information is based on and how many servings are in the package. Remember, if you eat more or less than the serving size, you must adjust the nutrient amounts accordingly.

Step 2: Look at the calories

The calories section shows the energy you get from one serving of the food. If you're watching your weight, compare the calorie content of different foods to make lower-calorie choices.

Step 3: Evaluate nutrients to limit

Pay attention to the nutrients that are recommended to be limited in your diet, such as total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Choose foods with lower percentages of these nutrients to reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and hypertension.

Step 4: Focus on beneficial nutrients

Look for foods high in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients are important for maintaining good health and can help reduce the risk of certain diseases. Aim for foods with higher percentages of these beneficial nutrients.

Step 5: Understand the percent daily values (%DV)

The %DV helps you understand how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to your daily diet. Use the %DV to compare foods and choose products that are higher in nutrients you want to consume more of and lower in nutrients you want to limit.

Following these steps, you can use nutrition labels to make informed food choices, leading to a healthier diet and overall well-being. Do this before buying food products, and you'll be on your way to a more nutritious diet.

How to use this template?

The "How to Read Nutrition Labels" template is a practical tool for health professionals to educate patients about interpreting nutrition labels. Here's how to use it effectively:

Step 1: Access the template

First, access the "How to Read Nutrition Labels" template through the Carepatron app. This ensures you have a reliable and comprehensive resource for teaching patients about nutrition labels.

Step 2: Explain the template

Introduce the template to your patients, explaining its purpose and how it can help them understand nutrition labels. Guide your patients through each section of the template, explaining the key components of a nutrition label, such as serving size, calories, nutrients to limit, beneficial nutrients, and percent daily values (%DV). Use real-life examples of food products to illustrate how to apply the information.

Step 3: Encourage practice

Encourage your patients to practice reading nutrition labels using the template. Ask them to bring labels from their food products and use the template to analyze the nutritional content. This hands-on approach will reinforce their understanding and help them become more confident in making informed food choices. Remind them to always check labels before buying food.

Step 4: Provide support

Offer ongoing support and guidance as your patients learn to read nutrition labels. Address any questions or concerns they may have and provide additional resources or tips as needed.

By following these steps, health professionals can effectively use the "How to Read Nutrition Labels" template to empower their patients with the knowledge and skills to navigate nutrition labels and make healthier dietary decisions.

How to Read Nutrition Labels Template PDF example (sample)

Carepatron has created a sample How to Read Nutrition Labels PDF template to assist health professionals in teaching their patients how to read nutrition labels. This example demonstrates how the template can guide patients in understanding and interpreting nutrition facts labels on food products. The sample includes fictitious patient information and a step-by-step breakdown of crucial nutritional information, such as serving size, calories, nutrients to limit, beneficial nutrients, and percent daily values (%DV), to help patients make informed choices about their diet.

Download the free How to Read Nutrition Labels Template PDF here:

How to Read Nutrition Labels Template PDF example (sample)

Why use Carepatron as your nutritionist software?

Carepatron is an ideal software solution for nutritionists and dietitians looking to enhance their practice and provide better care to their clients. Here's why:

  • Comprehensive client management: Carepatron allows you to easily track and manage your clients' dietary needs, progress, and health records in one place.
  • Customizable templates: With templates like the How to Read Nutrition Labels Template and the Nutrition Chart, you can provide your clients with valuable resources and education tailored to their needs.
  • Efficient communication: The software's secure messaging and telehealth features enable you to stay in touch with your clients, offer guidance, and conduct virtual consultations seamlessly.
  • Integrated scheduling: Carepatron's scheduling tools make it easy to manage appointments, send reminders, and reduce no-shows, ensuring a smooth workflow for you and your clients.
  • Data security: Carepatron adheres to strict privacy and security standards, ensuring your clients' sensitive health information is protected and handled carefully.
  • Time-saving automation: Automated billing, invoicing, and documentation features save you time on administrative tasks, allowing you to focus more on client care and nutrition counseling.

By choosing Carepatron as your practice management software, you empower your practice with tools designed to streamline your workflow, enhance client engagement, and improve health outcomes. Sign up for Carepatron today and take the first step toward a more efficient and effective nutrition practice!

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Why is looking at a nutrition label important when deciding what to eat?
Why is looking at a nutrition label important when deciding what to eat?

Commonly asked questions

Why is looking at a nutrition label important when deciding what to eat?

Looking at a nutrition label is important because it provides information on the nutritional content of the food, helping you make healthier choices that align with your dietary goals and needs.

What is the 10 10 5 rule for nutrition?

The 10-10-5 rule is a guideline for reading nutrition labels, suggesting that foods with at least 10% DV of beneficial nutrients (like fiber and vitamins) and less than 10% DV of nutrients to limit (like saturated fat and sodium) and less than 5 grams of added sugars are generally healthier choices.

What is the 5-20 rule?

The 5-20 rule is a quick way to evaluate nutrition labels, where 5% DV or less of a nutrient is considered low, and 20% DV or more is considered high, helping you identify which nutrients you should limit or get more of in your diet.

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