Use of nutritional labels in choosing food is associated with healthier eating habits including lower fat intake. Current public health efforts are focusing on the revamping of nutritional labels to make them easier to read and use for the consumer. The study aims to assess the frequency of use of nutritional labels and awareness of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutritional programmes by low-income women including those participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) as surveyed in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005–2006. Many low-income women do not regularly use the nutrition facts panel information on the food label and less than half had heard of the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans (38.9%). In multivariate logistic regression, we found that WIC participation was associated with reduced use of the nutrition facts panel in choosing food products [odds ratio (OR) 0.45, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.22–0.91], the health claims information (OR 0.54, 95% CI 0.32–0.28) and the information on carbohydrates when deciding to buy a product (OR 0.44, 95% CI 0.20–0.97) in comparison with WIC eligible non-participants. Any intervention to improve use of nutritional labels and knowledge of the USDA's nutritional programmes needs to target low-income women, including WIC participants. Future studies should evaluate possible reasons for the low use of nutrition labels among WIC participants in comparison with eligible non-participants.