Health Topics

Food and nutrition

Food Labeling
National Library of Medicine
Nutrition Labeling

All packaged foods and beverages in the U.S. have food labels. These "Nutrition Facts" labels can help you make smarter food choices and eat a healthy diet.

Before you read the food label, you should know a few things:

  • Serving size is based on how much people usually eat and drink at one time
  • Number of servings tells you how many servings are in the container. Some labels will give you information about calories and nutrients for both the whole package and each serving size. But many labels just tell you that information for each serving size. You need to think about the serving size when you decide how much to eat or drink. For example, if a bottle of juice has two servings and you drink the whole bottle, then you are getting twice the amount of sugar that is listed on the label.
  • Percent daily value (%DV) is a number that helps you understand how much of a nutrient is in one serving. Experts recommend that you get certain amount of different nutrients daily. %DV tells you what percentage of the daily recommendation you get from one serving of a food. With this, you can figure out if a food is high or low in a nutrient: 5% or less is low, 20% or more is high.

The information on a food label can help you see how a certain food or drink fits into your overall diet. The label lists, per serving,

  • The number of calories
  • Fats, including total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Carbohydrates, including fiber, total sugar, and added sugar
  • Protein
  • Vitamins and Minerals

Food and Drug Administration


Food Labeling
Food and Nutrition
All packaged foods and beverages in the U.S. have food labels. These "Nutrition Facts" labels can help you make smarter food choices and eat a healthy diet. ...
Nutrition
National Library of Medicine
Food Additives
Healthy Eating

Food provides the energy and nutrients you need to be healthy. Nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.

Healthy eating is not hard. The key is to

  • Eat a variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products
  • Eat lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and low-fat dairy products
  • Drink lots of water
  • Limit salt, sugar, alcohol, saturated fat, and trans fat in your diet

Saturated fats are usually fats that come from animals. Look for trans fat on the labels of processed foods, margarines, and shortenings.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
Nutrition Disorders
Food and Nutrition
Wellness and Lifestyle
Food provides the energy and nutrients you need to be healthy. Nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Healthy eating ...
Child Nutrition
National Library of Medicine
Nutrition, Child
Teen Nutrition

A healthy diet helps children grow and learn. It also helps prevent obesity and weight-related diseases, such as diabetes. To give your child a nutritious diet

  • Make half of what is on your child's plate fruits and vegetables
  • Choose healthy sources of protein, such as lean meat, nuts, and eggs
  • Serve whole-grain breads and cereals because they are high in fiber. Reduce refined grains.
  • Broil, grill, or steam foods instead of frying them
  • Limit fast food and junk food
  • Offer water or milk instead of sugary fruit drinks and sodas

Learn about your children's nutrient requirements. Some of them, such as the requirements for iron and calcium, change as your child ages.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Child Nutrition Disorders
Adolescent Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
Children and Teenagers
Food and Nutrition
A healthy diet helps children grow and learn. It also helps prevent obesity and weight-related diseases, such as diabetes. To give your child a nutritious ...
Infant and Newborn Nutrition
National Library of Medicine

Food provides the energy and nutrients that babies need to be healthy. For a baby, breast milk is best. It has all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Infant formulas are available for babies whose mothers are not able to or decide not to breastfeed.

Infants are usually ready to eat solid foods at about 6 months of age. Check with your health care provider for the best time for your baby to start. If you introduce one new food at a time, you will be able to identify any foods that cause allergies in your baby. Allergic reactions include a a rash, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Many parents are concerned about peanut allergies. When babies can eat foods that contain peanuts depends on their risk of food allergies:

  • Most babies can have peanut products when they are about 6 months of age
  • Babies who have mild to moderate eczema have a higher risk of food allergies. They usually can eat peanut products at about 6 months of age. If you have concerns about this, check with your baby's health care provider.
  • Babies who have severe eczema or egg allergies are at high risk for peanut allergies. If your baby is at high risk, check with your baby's health care provider. Your baby may need allergy testing. Your baby's provider can also recommend when and how to give your baby peanut products.

There are some foods that you should avoid feeding your baby:

  • Do not give your baby honey before 1 year of age. Honey may contain bacteria that can cause botulism in babies.
  • Avoid cow's milk before age 1, since it does not have all of the nutrients that babies need and babies cannot digest it
  • Unpasteurized drinks or foods (such as juices, milks, yogurt, or cheeses) may put your child at risk for an E. coli infection. E coli is a harmful bacteria that can cause severe diarrhea.
  • Certain foods that can cause choking, such as hard candy, popcorn, whole nuts, and grapes (unless they are cut into small pieces). Don't give your child these foods before age 3.
  • Because it contains a lot of sugar, babies should not drink juice before age 1

Infant Food
Infant Nutrition Disorders
Infant Formula
Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
Children and Teenagers
Food and Nutrition
Food provides the energy and nutrients that babies need to be healthy. For a baby, breast milk is best. It has all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Infant ...
Food Safety
National Library of Medicine

Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage can prevent foodborne illness. There are four basic steps to food safety at home:

  • Clean - always wash your fruits and vegetables, hands, counters, and cooking utensils.
  • Separate - keep raw foods to themselves. Germs can spread from one food to another.
  • Cook - foods need to get hot and stay hot. Heat kills germs.
  • Chill - put fresh food in the refrigerator right away.

In the grocery store, avoid cans that are bulging or jars that have cracks or loose lids. Check packages to be sure food hasn't reached its expiration date.

United States Department of Agriculture


Food Safety
Food and Nutrition
Poisoning, Toxicology, Environmental Health
Safety Issues
Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage can prevent foodborne illness. There are four basic steps to food safety at home: Clean - always wash your ...
Toddler Nutrition
National Library of Medicine

Food provides the energy and nutrients that young children need to be healthy. Toddlers are learning to feed themselves and to eat new foods. They should eat a variety of foods from all of the food groups.

Each day, toddlers need enough nutrients, including

  • 7 milligrams of iron
  • 700 milligrams of calcium
  • 600 IU of vitamin D

Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
Children and Teenagers
Food and Nutrition
Food provides the energy and nutrients that young children need to be healthy. Toddlers are learning to feed themselves and to eat new foods. They should ...
Vegetarian Diet
National Library of Medicine
Vegan Diet
Vegans

A vegetarian diet focuses on plants for food. These include fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, grains, seeds and nuts. There is no single type of vegetarian diet. Instead, vegetarian eating patterns usually fall into the following groups:

  • The vegan diet, which excludes all meat and animal products
  • The lacto vegetarian diet, which includes plant foods plus dairy products
  • The lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which includes both dairy products and eggs

People who follow vegetarian diets can get all the nutrients they need. However, they must be careful to eat a wide variety of foods to meet their nutritional needs. Nutrients vegetarians may need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12.

United States Department of Agriculture


Vegetarians
Diet, Vegetarian
Food and Nutrition
A vegetarian diet focuses on plants for food. These include fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, grains, seeds and nuts. There is no single type of ...
Sodium
National Library of Medicine
Dietary Sodium
Hyponatremia
Salt

Table salt is a combination of two minerals - sodium and chloride Your body needs some sodium to work properly. It helps with the function of nerves and muscles. It also helps to keep the right balance of fluids in your body. Your kidneys control how much sodium is in your body. If you have too much and your kidneys can't get rid it, sodium builds up in your blood. This can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to other health problems.

Most people in the U.S. get more sodium in their diets than they need. A key to healthy eating is choosing foods low in sodium. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that most adults eat less than 2.3 grams per day. That equals about 1 teaspoon of table salt a day. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of salt than others and should eat less. This includes people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney problems, or are African-American or over age 50. Reading food labels can help you see how much sodium is in prepared foods.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Sodium Chloride, Dietary
Sodium, Dietary
Food and Nutrition
Table salt is a combination of two minerals - sodium and chloride Your body needs some sodium to work properly. It helps with the function of nerves and muscles. ...
Vitamins
National Library of Medicine

Vitamins are substances that your body needs to grow and develop normally. There are 13 vitamins your body needs. They are

  • Vitamin A
  • B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

You can usually get all your vitamins from the foods you eat. Your body can also make vitamins D and K. People who eat a vegetarian diet may need to take a vitamin B12 supplement.

Each vitamin has specific jobs. If you have low levels of certain vitamins, you may get health problems. For example, if you don't get enough vitamin C, you could become anemic. Some vitamins may help prevent medical problems. Vitamin A prevents night blindness.

The best way to get enough vitamins is to eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods. In some cases, you may need to take vitamin supplements. It's a good idea to ask your health care provider first. High doses of some vitamins can cause problems.


Vitamins
Micronutrients
Food and Nutrition
Vitamins are substances that your body needs to grow and develop normally. There are 13 vitamins your body needs. They are Vitamin A B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, ...
Dietary Fiber
National Library of Medicine
Fiber
Bulk
Roughage

Fiber is a substance in plants. Dietary fiber is the kind you eat. It's a type of carbohydrate. You may also see it listed on a food label as soluble fiber or insoluble fiber. Both types have important health benefits.

Good sources of dietary fiber include

  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruit and vegetables

Dietary fiber adds bulk to your diet and makes you feel full faster, helping you control your weight. It helps digestion and helps prevent constipation. Most Americans don't eat enough dietary fiber. But add it to your diet slowly. Increasing dietary fiber too quickly can lead to gas, bloating, and cramps.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Dietary Fiber
Food and Nutrition
Fiber is a substance in plants. Dietary fiber is the kind you eat. It's a type of carbohydrate. You may also see it listed on a food label as soluble fiber ...