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How to read the nutrition facts label

Nutrition Fact Label

Calories– this refers to the total number of calories in a serving of a food product. 2000calories a day is a general guide for nutrition advice but yours can be higher or lower depending on your age, sex, height, weight and physical activity level therefore it is not a recommendation to eat 2000calories. Click on this link to check your calorie need.

Calorie calculator – Mayo Clinic

Calories come majorly from the macronutrients – carbohydrate, fat, or protein. Carbohydrates and protein contain four calories per gram, and fat contains nine calories per gram. This is how calorie content is calculated. Note that in that package, there are 31 grams of carbohydrate, 5g of protein, and 12g of fat. Using the sample label:

(31 g carbs x 4 kcal/g) + (5 g protein x 4 kcal/g) + (12 g fat x 9 kcal/g) = 252calories, rounded to 250 calories.

%Daily Value

This tells you how much a nutrient in one serving of food contributes to your limits in a total daily diet. It helps you determine if a serving of food is high or low in an individual nutrient and to compare food products. For instance: 

  • A serving of food is LOW in a certain nutrient if it provides less than or equal to 5% of the daily value.
  • A serving of food is HIGH in a nutrient if it provides 20% or more of the daily value.

Using the above package label as an example, a serving of the food contributes 20% of the recommended intake of sodium per day.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that healthy adults consume between 1,500 mg to 2,300 mg per day

To calculate the equivalent amount of the 20% sodium(salt) contained in the package:

100% / 20% DV = 5

5 x 470 mg sodium = 2350 mg sodium. 2300 mg is the recommended upper limit for sodium intake in a day

Hence 2350mg sodium (salt) is present in one serving of the food in the package. This has exceeded the recommended daily intake of sodium hence the product should be avoided or taken scarcely.

Nutrients to Limit

Increased intake of these nutrients is linked to increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease and blindness. These nutrients include:saturated and trans-fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugar.

Saturated fats, trans-fats, and cholesterol – Many processed foods contain high amounts of saturated fat. On a 2000-calorie diet per day, the recommended intake of total fat is 65g, saturated fat is 20g and cholesterol 300mg.The American Heart Association (AHA)Trusted Source recommended the daily intake of saturated fats to be between 5% and 6% of the total number of calories. Hence choosing foods with 1-2 grams of saturated fat per serving or a serving that provides 6% or less of the daily value and foods high in polyunsaturated fat is the best. If the Previously, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggested that a person should consume 300 milligrams (mg) per day or less of dietary cholesterol but a recent  review of studies Trusted Source pointed out that the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines no longer makes this recommendation. According to the same review, there is no evidence to suggest that dietary cholesterol has any links to cardiovascular disease. Someone who reduces the intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and added sugars will naturally consume less cholesterol overall but the liver of a person that consumes foods high in saturated or trans-fat, starts to produce too much low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol).

Sodium is a mineral commonly found in table salt and many commercially processed, packaged and prepared foods. Healthy adults should take between 1500 and 2300mg (1teaspoon) according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Added sugars include sugars that are added during the processing. Diets high in calories from added sugars can make it harder to meet nutrient needs while staying within calories limits. The DV for added sugars is less than 50g per day meaning that no more than 50 grams of added sugar per day are required for a 2000 calorie diet.

Beneficial Nutrients

These nutrients are needed more in the body. In general, the more the better when it comes to dietaryfibre, vitamins, and minerals. Examples are:

Dietary fibre

The percent daily value for carbohydrate is 300g per day for a 2000calorie diet, and fiber 25g a day.To increase your intake of vitamin C, eat foods with more than 20percent daily value of dietary fiber as this can help to lower blood cholesterol and help manage your weight.

Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium, iron, and vitamin D are not found naturally in a lot of food sources, but many 

foods may be fortified with them. 

Calcium and vitamin D are important for bone health, muscle and nerve function. Calcium is important for children and adolescents because the bones stop growing around age 25. After that, it is important to get enough calcium and vitamin D to maintain our bone health and prevent osteoporosis. On a 2000calorie diet, the average percent daily value for calcium is 1000mg per day. The above package contains 20% of daily value which means the food item contains 200mg of calcium per serving while the daily value for vitamin D is 20mcg per day.


Iron is an important part of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all our organs and tissues. The daily value for Iron is 18mg per day for a 2000calorie diet.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a very important vitamin found in fruits and vegetables. It is an important antioxidant which support normal growth, helps to treat common cold, delay the development of cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Vitamin C is required for the biosynthesis of collagen, involved in protein metabolism The percent daily value for vitamin C for adult is 60mg per day. To increase your intake of vitamin C, eat foods with more than 20percent daily value for vitamin C.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an essential vitamin which supports growth and development of the eyes, bones and immune health. Percent daily value for vitamin A per day is 5000IU for a 2000calorie diet.


Potassium is a mineral that helps with fluid balance and heart, muscle and nervous system function. The daily value for potassium is 4,700 mg per day Since potassium is found in an abundance of fruits and vegetables, low potassium intake is indicative of low fruit and vegetable intake.

Nutrition labels are often ignored but it’s time to be intentional about what you eat. With a little practice, you’ll understand and it will be part of you.

Knowing how to use a Nutrition Label can help you make healthier choices when shopping for packaged foods.

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  1. Pingback: Added Sugars - Nutrition Digests

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