The Nutrition Facts label is designed to provide consumers with relevant information and nutrient content of food products being consumed. The goal is to assist consumers in making informed decisions about the foods they eat based on the information provided.

Size up servings

Serving size is based on the amount of food that is customarily eaten at one time and is not a recommendation of how much to eat. The nutrition information listed on the Nutrition Facts label is usually based on one serving of the food; however, some containers may also have information displayed per package. 

  • When comparing calories and nutrients in different foods, check the serving size in order to make an accurate comparison.

Servings per container shows the total number of servings in the entire food package or container. 

  • One package of food may contain more than one serving. Some containers may also have a label with two columns – one column listing the amount of calories and nutrients in one serving and the other column listing this information for the entire package.

Consider the calories

Calories refers to the total number of calories, or “energy,” supplied from all sources (fat, carbohydrate, protein, and alcohol) in one serving of the food. 

As a general guide: 100 calories per serving of an individual food is considered a moderate amount, and 400 calories or more per serving of an individual food is considered high in calories. 

To achieve or maintain a healthy weight, balance the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses. 2,000 calories a day is used as a guide for general nutrition advice. 

Your calorie needs may be higher or lower and vary depending on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level. 

% Daily Value (DV) shows how much a nutrient in a serving of the food contributes to a total daily diet. Use the %DV to determine if a serving of the food is high or low in an individual nutrient and to compare food products (check to make sure the serving size is the same). 

% Daily Value (DV)

The %DV shows how much a nutrient in a serving of the food contributes to a total daily diet. Use the %DV to determine if a serving of the food is high or low in an individual nutrient and to compare food products (check to make sure the serving size is the same). 

As a general guide:

5% DV or less of a nutrient per serving is considered low, and 20% DV or more of a nutrient per serving is considered high.  

  • <5% (or less) is considered LOW for nutrients you need to limit.   Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium 
  • >20% (or more) is considered HIGH for nutrients you need more of.
    Fiber, Vitamins & Minerals

Added sugars includes sugars that are either added during the processing of foods, or are packages as such (e.g. a bag of table sugar?, and also includes sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices. 

Choose nutrients wisely

Use the label to choose products that are lower in nutrients you want to get less of and higher in nutrients you want to get more of. 

  • Nutrients to get less of: saturated fat, sodium, added sugars, and trans fat. Most Americans exceed the recommended limits for these nutrients, and diets higher in these nutrients are associated with an increased risk of developing some health conditions, such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Compare and choose foods to get less than 100% DV of these nutrients each day. (Note: Trans fat has no %DV. Use the amount of grams for comparison and keep the intake of trans fat as low as possible.)
  • Nutrients to get more of: dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium. Many Americans do not get the recommended amount of these nutrients, and diets higher in these nutrients can reduce the risk of developing some health conditions, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and anemia. Compare and choose foods to get 100% DV of these nutrients on most days.

Check out the ingredient list

Although the ingredient list is not part of the Nutrient Facts label, it is also a helpful tool. The Ingredient List shows each ingredient in a food by its common or usual name. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, so the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last.  

Buffington, A., Lindsay, A. 2019, Nutrition Facts Label: Understanding the Label, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno

Learn more about the author(s)

 

Also of Interest:

 
Have it Your Weigh! Portion Sizes & Dining Out
Learn about healthy eating by understanding choosing sensible portions when dining out or at home and healthful menu choices from restaurants.
Lindsay, A., Wilson, M., & Velasquez, S. 2007, UNCE Fact Sheet FS-07-46.
Handling Baby Food
This fact sheet contains information on handling baby food such as feeding, serving, and sanitizing.
Sigman-Grant, M. 2001, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-01-15
Safely Feeding Babies and Infants
This fact sheet contains information regarding parents' options for feeding babies and infants. Learn more about keeping clean and serving breast milk/formula and when should it be discarded.
Sigman-Grant, M. 2001, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-07-22