Food Labels

Nutrition Facts Label

The Nutrition Facts label is on the package of most food products. The label allows you to see the nutrients in the food product, compare the nutritional values of different items, and make healthier food choices.


In the sample below, sections of the label are numbered. Each section is explained in the key in the next column.

Label Key

Each section below is numbered to match a circled number on the sample Nutrition Facts label at bottom left.

1. Serving Size and Servings Per Container: Start to read the Nutrition Facts label in section 1. “Serving Size” is the amount of the food product, such as cups or pieces, that is considered to be 1 portion. The rest of the information on the label is based on that amount of food. “Servings Per Container” indicates how many servings the package contains.

Example: If the label says the serving size is 1 cup and there are 2 servings per container, this means there is a total of 2 cups in the container. If you eat the whole container, you are eating 2 servings.

2. Calories and Calories from Fat: In section 2, “Calories” is how much energy you get in 1 serving of the food product. Remember, if you eat more than 1 serving, you will be eating more calories.

The sample label tells you that a 1 cup serving of this food is 250 calories, but if you eat 2 cups of this food, you will be eating 500 calories. “Calories from Fat” is how many calories in 1 serving come from fat. On the sample label below, it is 110 calories.

3. Limit these nutrients: Section 3 lists “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” “Trans Fat,” “Cholesterol,” and “Sodium.” Limiting your intake of these items can help reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease, some cancers, and high blood pressure.

4. Carbohydrates: Section 4 shows the “Total Carbohydrate” in 1 serving of a food or drink. There are 2 types of carbohydrate listed on the label. They are “Dietary Fiber” and “Sugars.” Aim to increase your intake of dietary fiber. Eating more dietary fiber can help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions, such as heart disease and constipation.

5. Get enough of these: Section 5 lists “Vitamin A,” Vitamin C,” “Calcium,” and “Iron.” Most Americans do not get enough of these nutrients. Eating enough of them can improve your health and reduce the risk of some diseases.

6. Understanding the footnote: Section 6 is a footnote at the bottom of the label. In section 7, there is an asterisk (*) after “% Daily Value” that refers you to this footnote. The footnote says: “Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.” This statement must be on all Nutrition Facts labels. If the package is too small, the rest of the footnote may not appear.

If the entire footnote appears, it gives the Daily Values (DVs) for each nutrient listed. The DV is the recommended amount of that nutrient to eat each day. The DVs listed are for diets of 2,000 and 2,500 calories.

The footnote tells you the basis for the percentages listed in section 7. Pay attention to section 7.

7. Quick guide to “% Daily Value” (%DV): In section 7, each %DV tells how much of the recommended daily need for that nutrient is met by 1 serving of this food. The %DVs in section 7 are for a diet of 2,000 calories (not 2,500 calories).

You can use the %DVs as a guide to estimate your nutrition intake, whether you consume more or less than 2,000 calories in a day. Keep in mind that your actual DVs may be higher or lower, based on your own calorie needs.

For example, section 3 on the sample label lists “Total Fat” as 12 grams. The %DV is 18 percent. This means that 1 serving of this food gives you 18 percent of the fat you should eat in one day.

The footnote tells you that for a 2,000 calorie diet, daily total fat intake should be less than 65 grams. (12 grams = 18 percent of 65 grams).

The box to the right gives two rules to follow about % Daily Value.

Please note: The label does not give a %DV for all the nutrients listed. There may not be enough information to set a Daily Value, or a Daily Value may not be needed.

You may be concerned about your intake of items with no %DV (such as trans fat and sugars). If so, compare the Nutrition Facts labels of similar products, and choose the one with the lowest amount of those items. 

Food Package Claims

Many people are not sure what the claims on food packages mean and how they apply to their diet. The following list has been created to help you understand food package claims so you can make better choices.

Any claim advertised on a food package must first meet government standards. Below is a list of common claims and their meanings.

  • Calorie free: fewer than 5 calories per serving

  • Low calorie: 40 calories or fewer per serving

  • Light or lite: 1/3 fewer calories or 50 percent less fat per serving than the regular comparable product

  • Reduced calorie: at least 25 percent fewer calories than the regular comparable product

  • Fat free: less than 0.5g (grams) of fat per serving

  • Low fat: 3g of fat or less per serving

  • Reduced or lower fat: at least 25 percent less fat per serving than the regular product

  • Saturated fat free: less than 0.5g saturated fat and less than 0.5g trans fat per serving

  • Low saturated fat: 1g or less saturated fat per serving

  • Reduced or lower saturated fat: at least 25 percent less saturated fat per serving than the regular product

  • Cholesterol free: less than 2mg (milligrams) cholesterol and 2g or less saturated fat per serving

  • Low cholesterol: 20mg or less cholesterol and 2g or less saturated fat per serving

  • Reduced cholesterol: at least 25 percent less cholesterol than the regular product

  • Sodium free: less than 5mg of sodium per serving

  • Very low sodium: 35mg sodium or less per serving

  • Low sodium: 140mg sodium or less per serving

  • Light or lite sodium: at least 50 percent less sodium than the regular comparable product

  • Reduced sodium: at least 25 percent less sodium than the regular comparable product

  • Unsalted or no added salt: processed without the salt normally used

  • Sugar free: less than 0.5g sugar per serving

  • Reduced sugar: at least 25 percent less sugar than the regular product

  • No added sugar: processed without adding sugar

  • Lean: less than 10g total fat, 4.5g saturated fat, and 95mg cholesterol per serving

  • Extra lean: less than 5g total fat, 2g saturated fat, and 95mg cholesterol per serving

  • High (example: “High in Fiber”):  provides 20 percent or more of the Daily Value for that nutrient

  • Good source (example: “Good Source of Vitamin A”):  provides 10 percent or more of the Daily Value for that nutrient

  • More, added, extra, or plus (example: “More Calcium”):  provides 10 percent or more of the Daily Value for that nutrient

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