Nutrition Facts Label Overview

Nutrition Facts Label Overview

The information in the main or top section of a Nutrition Facts label can vary with each food product. It contains product-specific information (serving size, calories, and nutrient information). The bottom part contains a footnote with Daily Values (DVs) for 2000- and 2500-calorie diets. This footnote provides recommended dietary information for important nutrients, including fats, sodium, and fiber. The footnote is found only on larger packages and does not change from product to product.



Serving size

The first place to start when you look at the Nutrition Facts label is the serving size and the number of servings in the package. Serving sizes are standardized to make it easier to compare similar foods. They are provided in familiar units, such as cups or pieces, followed by the metric amount (eg, the number of grams). The size of the serving on the food package influences the number of calories and all the nutrient amounts listed on the top part of the label.

Pay attention to the serving size, especially how many servings are in the food package. Then ask yourself, “How many servings am I consuming?” Are you consuming one-half of a serving, one serving, or more? In the sample label, one serving equals 1cup (C). If you ate the whole package, you would eat 2 C. That doubles the calories and other nutrient numbers, including the % Daily Value as shown on the sample label.


Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of this food. Many Americans consume more calories than they need without meeting recommended intake for a number of nutrients. The calorie section of the label can help you manage your weight (ie, gain, lose, or maintain). Remember that the number of servings you consume determines the number of calories you actually eat (your portion amount).

For example, there are 250 calories in one serving. How many calories from fat are there in one serving? Answer: 110 calories. This means almost one-half of the calories in a single serving come from fat. What if you ate the content of the whole package? Then, you would consume two servings, or 500 calories, and 220 calories would come from fat.

 General guide to calories

  • 40 calories is low
  • 100 calories is moderate
  • 400 calories or more is high

This guide provides a general reference for calories when you look at a Nutrition Facts label. It is based on a 2000-calorie diet. Eating too many calories per day is linked to overweight and obesity.


The top of the nutrient section in the sample label shows you some key nutrients that impact your health. They are separated into two main groups.

Limit these nutrients

The nutrients listed first are the ones Americans generally eat in adequate amounts or even too much. Eating too much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or sodium may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, some cancers, or high blood pressure.

Note: Health experts recommend that you keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol as low as possible, as part of a nutritionally balanced diet.

Get enough of these

Most Americans do not get enough dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron in their diets. Eating enough of these nutrients can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions. For example, getting enough calcium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that results in brittle bones. Eating a diet high in dietary fiber promotes healthy bowel function. In addition, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contains dietary fiber, particularly soluble fiber, and that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Remember that you can use the Nutrition Facts label not only to help limit those nutrients you want to cut back on, but also to increase those nutrients you need to consume in greater amounts.

Percent Daily Value

The Percent Daily Value (% Daily Value) is based on the Daily Value recommendations for key nutrients, but only for a 2000-calorie daily diet—not 2500 calories. You, like most people, may not know how many calories you consume in a day. But you still can use the % Daily Value as a frame of reference, whether or not you consume more or less than 2000 calories. The % Daily Value helps you determine if a serving of food is high or low in a nutrient.

Note: A few nutrients, such as trans fat, do not have a % Daily Value.

You do not need to know how to calculate percentages to use the % Daily Value. The label does the math for you. It helps you interpret the numbers (grams and milligrams) by putting them all on the same scale for the day (0%-100% Daily Value). The % Daily Value column does not add up vertically to 100%. Instead, each nutrient is based on 100% of the daily requirements for that nutrient for a 2000-calorie diet. This way you can tell high from low, and know which nutrients contribute a lot or a little to your daily recommended allowance.

Guide to % Daily Value

5% Daily Value or less is low, and 20% Daily Value or more is high.

This guide tells you that 5% Daily Value or less is low for all nutrients, those you want to limit (eg, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium) or for those that you want to consume in greater amounts (fiber, calcium, etc). As the guide shows, 20% Daily Value or more is high for all nutrients.

Example: The amount of Total Fat in one serving is 18% Daily Value. Is that contributing a lot or a little to your fat limit of 100% Daily Value? Refer to the guide—18% Daily Value is below the 20% Daily Value. It is not yet high, but what if you ate two servings? You would double that amount, eating 36% of your daily allowance for Total Fat. Coming from just one food, that amount leaves you with 64% of your fat allowance (100%−36%=64%) for all of the other foods you eat that day, including snacks and drinks.

Using the % Daily Value

For comparisons: The % Daily Value also makes it easy for you to make comparisons. You can compare one product or brand to a similar product. Just make sure the serving sizes are similar, especially the weight (eg, gram, milligram, ounces) of each product. It is easy to see which foods are higher or lower in nutrients, because the serving sizes are generally consistent for similar types of foods, except in a few cases such as cereals.

For nutrient-content claims: Use the % Daily Value to help you quickly distinguish one claim from another, such as “reduced fat” vs  “light” or “nonfat.” Just compare the % Daily Value for Total Fat in each food product to see which one is higher or lower in that nutrient. It is not necessaryto memorize definitions. This works when comparing all nutrient content claims (eg, less, light, low, free, more, high, etc).

For dietary trade-offs: You can use the % Daily Value to help you make dietary trade-offs with other foods throughout the day. You do not have to give up a favorite food to eat a healthy diet. When a food you like is high in fat, balance it with foods that are low in fat at other times of the day. Also pay attention to how much you eat, so that the total amount of fat for the day stays below the 100% Daily Value.

Nutrients without a % Daily Value

Trans fats, protein, and sugars: No % Daily Value is listed on the Nutrition Facts label for trans fats, protein, and sugars.

Trans fat: Experts could not provide a reference value for trans fat nor any other information that the US Food and Drug Administration believes is sufficient to establish a Daily Value or % Daily Value. Scientific reports link trans fat and saturated fat with increasing blood low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol levels. Both trans fats and saturated fats increase your risk of coronary heart disease, a leading cause of death in the United States.

Note: Health experts recommend that you keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol as low as possible, as part of a nutritionally balanced diet.

Protein: A % Daily Value is required on the label if a claim is made for protein, such as “high in protein.” Otherwise, unless the food is meant for use by infants or children younger than 4 years of age, it is not needed. Current scientific evidence indicates that protein intake is not a public health concern for adults and children older than 4 years of age.

Sugars: No daily reference value is available for sugars, because no recommendations are made for the total amount to eat in a day. Keep in mind, the sugars listed on the Nutrition Facts label include naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruit and milk, as well as those added to a food or drink. Check the ingredient list for specifics on added sugars.

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