The Nutrition Facts panel displayed on all packaged food can relay critical nutrition information like calorie, sugar and fiber content—but only to those who read the label.

An investigation by the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health and Medical School found that a mere one-third of adults aged 25–36 report frequent use of the Nutrition Facts label. Women, people with more education and income, those who cook more of their own food, and people who exercise regularly were more likely to examine their food purchases carefully.

Importantly, Nutrition Facts label users had better overall diets. They ate more fruits, vegetables and whole grains than nonreaders and consumed fewer sugar-sweetened beverages and fast-food meals. The study underscores why health plans need to instruct shoppers on the importance of deciphering the Nutrition Facts panel (and the accompanying product ingredients list).

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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