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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
Carbohydrates
National Library of Medicine
Corn Syrup
Sugar
Sugar Substitutes
Sweeteners, Artificial
Carbs
What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are sugar molecules. Along with proteins and fats, carbohydrates are one of three main nutrients found in foods and drinks.

Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. Glucose, or blood sugar, is the main source of energy for your body's cells, tissues, and organs. Glucose can be used immediately or stored in the liver and muscles for later use.

What are the different types of carbohydrates?

There are three main types of carbohydrates:

  • Sugars. They are also called simple carbohydrates because they are in the most basic form. They can be added to foods, such as the sugar in candy, desserts, processed foods, and regular soda. They also include the kinds of sugar that are found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and milk.
  • Starches. They are complex carbohydrates, which are made of lots of simple sugars strung together. Your body needs to break starches down into sugars to use them for energy. Starches include bread, cereal, and pasta. They also include certain vegetables, like potatoes, peas, and corn.
  • Fiber. It is also a complex carbohydrate. Your body cannot break down most fibers, so eating foods with fiber can help you feel full and make you less likely to overeat. Diets high in fiber have other health benefits. They may help prevent stomach or intestinal problems, such as constipation. They may also help lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Fiber is found in many foods that come from plants, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.
Which foods have carbohydrates?

Common foods with carbohydrates include

  • Grains, such as bread, noodles, pasta, crackers, cereals, and rice
  • Fruits, such as apples, bananas, berries, mangoes, melons, and oranges
  • Dairy products, such as milk and yogurt
  • Legumes, including dried beans, lentils, and peas
  • Snack foods and sweets, such as cakes, cookies, candy, and other desserts
  • Juices, regular sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, and energy drinks that contain sugar
  • Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, and peas

Some foods don't have a lot of carbohydrates, such as meat, fish, poultry, some types of cheese, nuts, and oils.

Which types of carbohydrates should I eat?

You do need to eat some carbohydrates to give your body energy. But it's important to eat the right kinds of carbohydrates for your health:

  • When eating grains, choose mostly whole grains and not refined grains:
    • Whole grains are foods like whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole cornmeal, and oatmeal. They offer lots of nutrients that your body needs, like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. To figure out whether a product has a lot of whole grain, check the ingredients list on the package and see if a whole grain is one of the first few items listed.
    • Refined grains are foods that have had some of the grains removed. This also removes some of the nutrients that are good for your health.
  • Eat foods with lots of fiber. The Nutrition Facts label on the back of food packages tells you how much fiber a product has.
  • Try to avoid foods that have a lot of added sugar. These foods can have many calories but not much nutrition. Eating too much added sugar raises your blood sugar and can make you gain weight. You can tell if a food or drink has added sugars by looking at the Nutrition Facts label on the back of food package. It tells you how much total sugar and added sugar is in that food or drink.
How many carbohydrates should I eat?

There is no one-size-fits-all amount of carbohydrates that people should eat. This amount can vary, depending on factors such as your age, sex, health, and whether or not you are trying to lose or gain weight. On average, people should get 45 to 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates every day. On the Nutrition Facts labels, the Daily Value for total carbohydrates is 275 g per day. This is based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet. Your Daily Value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs and health.

Is it safe to eat a low-carb diet?

Some people go on a low-carb diet to try to lose weight. This usually means eating 25g and 150g of carbs each day. This kind of diet can be safe, but you should talk to your health care provider before starting it. One problem with low-carb diets is that they can limit the amount of fiber you get each day. They can also be hard to stay on for the long term.


Dietary Carbohydrates
Food and Nutrition
... nutrients that are good for your health. Eat foods with lots of fiber. The Nutrition Facts label on the back of food packages ...
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 ...
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 Proteins
National Library of Medicine
Proteins

Protein is in every cell in the body. Our bodies need protein from the foods we eat to build and maintain bones, muscles and skin. We get proteins in our diet from meat, dairy products, nuts, and certain grains and beans. Proteins from meat and other animal products are complete proteins. This means they supply all of the amino acids the body can't make on its own. Most plant proteins are incomplete. You should eat different types of plant proteins every day to get all of the amino acids your body needs.

It is important to get enough dietary protein. You need to eat protein every day, because your body doesn't store it the way it stores fats or carbohydrates. How much you need depends on your age, sex, health, and level of physical activity. Most Americans eat enough protein in their diet.


Dietary Proteins
Food and Nutrition
Protein is in every cell in the body. Our bodies need protein from the foods we eat to build and maintain bones, muscles and skin. We get proteins in our diet ...