How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging

People check food labels for a variety of reasons. But regardless of the reason, many consumers would like to understand how to use this information more efficiently and easily. The following label reading skills are intended to make it easier for you to use Nutrition Facts labels to make quick and informed food decisions to help you select a healthy diet.


The information within the main or top section (see # 1-4) of the sample nutrition label (below) may vary with each food and beverage product; contains product-specific information (serving size, calories, and nutritional information). The bottom section contains a footnote that explains half the Daily Value and provides the number of calories used for general nutritional advice.

On the Nutrition Facts label below, we have colored certain sections to help you specialize in those areas that will be explained in detail. Please note that these colored sections are not on the particular food labels of the products you purchase.

Sample label for frozen lasagna

How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging
Article: How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging

1. Serving Information

(#1 on sample label)

How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging
How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging

When looking at the Nutrition Facts label, first take a look at the number of servings inside the package (servings per container) and therefore the serving size. Serving sizes are standardized to make it easier to combine similar foods; They are given in family units, such as cups or pieces, followed by the metric quantity, for example, the number of grams (g). The serving size indicates the amount of food or drinks that most individuals consume regularly. It is not a guideline for the amount of food or drink you should consume.


It is important to understand that each of the nutrient amounts listed on the label, including the number of calories, asks for the serving size. Focus on the serving size, especially what percentage of the servings are in the food package. for example, you may be wondering if you are consuming ½ serving, 1 serving, or more. Inside the sample label, one serving of lasagna equals 1 cup. If you ate two cups, you would have two servings. that’s twice the calories and nutrients shown on the sample label, so you’d have to double the nutrient and calorie amounts, also due to% DV, to determine what you’re eating in two servings.

One Serving of Lasagna%DVTwo Serving of Lasagna%DV
Serving Size1 cup2 cups
Total Fat9g12%18g24%
Saturated Fat4.5g23%9g46%
Trans Fat0g 0g 
Total Carbohydrate34g12%68g24%
Dietary Fiber4g14%8g29%
Total Sugars6g 12g 
Added Sugars0g0%0g0%
Protein15g 30g 
Vitamin D0mcg0%0mcg0%
How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging

2. Calories

(#2 on sample label)

How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging

Calories provide a measure of the proportion of energy you get from one serving of this food. in the example, there are 280 calories in a serving of lasagna. What if you ate the whole package? So, you would consume 4 servings or 1,120 calories.

Balance the quantity of calories you eat and drink with the number of calories your body consumes to acquire or maintain a healthy weight. A basic guideline for nutritional guidance is 2000 calories per day. Depending on your age, gender, height, weight, and level of physical activity, your calorie demands may be higher or lower.

Keep in mind that the number of servings you consume impacts the number of calories you consume. Obesity and overweight are linked to consuming too many calories each day.

3. Nutrients

(#3 on sample label)

How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging
How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging

Examine section 3 of the sample label. It illustrates some important nutrients that have an impact on your health. You’ll look for items that have more of the nutrients you want to promote and fewer of the nutrients you want to avoid using the label to match your unique dietary needs.

Nutrients that should consume less: saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.

Saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars are nutrients listed on the label that will be linked to adverse health effects, and Americans generally consume too much of them, according to the recommended limits for these nutrients. they are identified as nutrients to ask for less of. Eating excessive amounts of saturated fat and sodium, for example, is linked to an increased risk of developing some health conditions, such as disorders and high vital signs. Consuming too many added sugars can make it difficult to meet important nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits.

What are added sugars and how are they different from total sugars?

The total sugars on the Nutrition Facts label include the naturally occurring sugars in many nutritious foods and beverages, such as the sugar in milk and fruit, as well as the added sugars that will be present in the product. A daily guideline value has not been established for total sugars because no recommendation has been made for the total amount to eat each day.

Sugars added during food processing (such as sucrose or dextrose), foods packaged as sweeteners (such as table sugar), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit juices or vegetables are all shown as added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label. It might be challenging to maintain recommended daily quantities of vital nutrients while staying under calorie limitations while eating a diet high in calories from added sugars.

Note: If the phrase “includes” appears before Added Sugars on the label, it means that Added Sugars are included in the total sugar grams in the product.

For example, a container of yogurt with added sweeteners might include:

How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging

This means that the merchandise has 7 grams of added sugars and eight grams of sugars present, for a total of 15 grams of sugar.

Nutrients you need the most: dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.

Dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium are nutrients on the label that Americans generally don’t get in the recommended amount. they are identified as nutrients to boost more. Eating a diet rich in dietary fiber can increase stool frequency, lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and reduce calorie intake. Diets rich in vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, anemia, and high vital signs.

Remember: you will use the label to meet your personal dietary needs; Choose foods that contain more of the nutrients you would like to encourage and fewer of which you will want to limit.

4. The Percent Daily Value (%DV)

(#4 on sample label)

How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging
How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging

The% Daily Value (% DV) is the percentage of the Daily Value for each nutrient for one serving of the food. Daily Values ​​are reference amounts (expressed in grams, milligrams, or micrograms) of nutrients to consume or not exceed every day.

The% DV shows what proportion of a nutrient during a serving of food contributes to a complete daily diet.

% DV helps you identify whether a serving of food is high or low for a nutrient.


Do you have the skills to calculate percentages to use% DV? No, because the (% DV) tag does the math for you. It helps you interpret nutrient numbers (grams, milligrams, or micrograms) by putting them all on an equivalent scale for the day (0-100% DV). The% DV column does not add vertically to 100%. Instead, the% DV is the percentage of the daily value of each nutrient for one serving of the food. It can tell you whether a serving of food is high or low for a nutrient and whether one serving of the meal adds tons, or a kick, to your daily diet for each nutrient.

Note: some nutrients on the Nutrition Facts label, such as total sugars and trans fats, do not have a% DV; this will be discussed later.

% DV General Guide

  • A nutrient with less than 5% DV per serving is considered low.
  • A nutrient that contains 20% or more of the daily value (DV) per serving is considered high.

Whenever possible, choose foods that are:

  • Highest in% DV of dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium
  • Lower% DV for Saturated Fat, Sodium, and Added Sugars

Example: Check the amount of sodium in a serving listed on the sample Nutrition Facts label. Is the 37%% DV contributing tons or a twist to your diet? See the% DV General Guide. This product contains 37% DV of sodium, which shows that it is often a HIGH sodium product (it has quite a bit of 20% DV of sodium). If you ate 2 servings, that could provide 74% of the daily value for sodium, almost three-quarters of the sodium value for a full day.

How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging
How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging

Compare Foods – Use% DV to match food items (remember to make sure the serving size is the same) and more often choose items that are higher in nutrients that you would like to encourage more and fewer nutrients than you would like to exhort less than.

Understand Nutrient Content Claims Use the% DV to help distinguish one claim from another, such as “light,” “low,” and “reduced.” Simply compare the% DV on each food to determine which is higher or lower for a particular nutrient. no need to memorize definitions.

Diet Offsets You’ll use the% DV to help you create dietary offsets with other foods throughout the day. You do not need to hand over your favorite food to eat a healthy diet. When a food you want is high in saturated fat, balance it with foods low in saturated fat at other times of the day. Also, focus on the proportion you eat throughout the day, so that the total amount of saturated fat, as well as other nutrients you would like to limit, stays below 100% DV.

How Daily Values ​​Are Related to% DV

Watch the instance below for an added thank you to see how Daily Values ​​(DV) relate to% DV and Diet Guide. For each nutrient listed in the table, there is a DV, a% DV, and a dietary tip or goal. By following these dietary tips, you will stay within the upper or lower limits recommended by public health experts for the listed nutrients, supported by a 2,000 calorie daily diet.

Examples of DV versus% DV

Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Saturated Fat20g=100% DVLess than
Sodium2,300mg=100% DVLess than
Dietary Fiber28g=100% DVAt least
Added Sugars50g=100% DVLess than
Vitamin D20mcg=100% DVAt least
Calcium1,300mg=100% DVAt least
Iron18mg=100% DVAt least
Potassium4,700mg=100% DVAt least
How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging
Upper limit: comma “less than” …

The upper limit indicates that you should just stay below or consume “less than” the dietary value nutrient levels stated on a daily basis. The DV for saturated fat, for example, is 20 g. This is the entire daily value (DV) for this vitamin. Is it dietary advice or a goal? Every day, consume “less than” 20g or 100% DV.

Lower limit: comma “at least” …

The DV for dietary fiber is 28 g, which is 100% DV. this suggests that it is recommended that you simply eat “at least” this amount of dietary fiber most days.

Nutrients without% DV: trans fats, proteins, and total sugars:

Note that trans fats and total sugars do not have a% DV on the Nutrition Facts label. Protein only lists% DV in the specific situations listed below.

Trans Fats: Experts were unable to provide a guideline value for trans fats or other information that the FDA believes is sufficient to determine a daily value.


According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, there is evidence that diets high in trans fats are linked to increased blood levels of LDL (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol, which, in turn, is linked to an increased risk of developing a disorder. Note: Most uses for artificial trans fats in the US food supply will be phased out beginning in 2018.

Protein: A% DV is required to be included if a protein claim is made, such as “high protein”. The% DV for protein should even be listed on the label if the merchandise is intended for infants and children under 4 years of age. However, if the merchandise is intended for the general population 4 years and older and there is no claim for protein on the label, the% DV for protein is not required.

Current scientific evidence indicates that protein intake is not a public health concern for adults and youth ages 4 and older in the US.

Total Sugars: A daily guideline value for total sugars has not been established because no recommendations are made for the total amount to eat each day. Note that all sugars listed on the Nutrition Facts label include sugars present (such as those in fruit and milk) as well as added sugars.

Nutrition Facts Label Variations

Many Nutrition Facts labels on the market will have the same format as the lasagna label that has been used as an example throughout this page, but there are other label formats that food manufacturers can use. This final section will introduce two alternative formats: the double-column label and thus the single ingredient sugar label.

In addition to double-column labeling and single ingredient sugar labels, there are other label formats that you will explore here.

Dual-Column Labels

For certain products that are larger than a serving but would be consumed in a single or multiple sessions, manufacturers will need to provide “double column” labels to indicate the amounts of calories and nutrients both “per serving” and “per serving”. per package ”OR“ per unit. ”The goal of this type of double column labeling is to allow people to simply identify what percentage of calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package/unit at one time. For example, a bag of pretzels with 3 servings per container may need a label that looks like this to tell you how many calories and other nutrients would be in one serving and one package (3 servings).


Nutrition Fact pretzel
How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging

Single-Ingredient Sugar labels

Packages and containers for products such as pure honey, pure syrup, or pure sugar packets are not required to incorporate a statement of the number of grams of sugars added during a serving of the merchandise, but must still include a statement of the percentage of the daily value. . for added sugars. Manufacturers are urged to include the “” sign after the Percent Daily Value for Added Sugars in Single Ingredient Sugars, but they are not compelled to do so.

In a footnote explaining the amount of sugars additions that a portion of the merchandise contributes to the diet. also because of the contribution of a portion of the merchandise to the percentage of the Daily Value of Added Sugars. Single-ingredient sugars and syrups are labeled this way so that no more sugars appear to be added to merchandise and to make sure shoppers have information on how a serving of those products contributes to added daily value. sugars and your total diet.

Here’s an example of what a label might look like on a single ingredient sugar, like honey.


Nutrition Fact
How To Read Nutrition Labels On Your Food Packaging

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