Ever since the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA) gave the FDA authority to mandate nutritional labeling of foods that it regulates, most of our packaged foods have a “Nutritional Facts” table on the side. This blog post will offer an overview of what it all means.
At the very top of the table, we see the serving size and the servings per container. Don’t skip over these, as they are very important components of the nutritional facts. Serving sizes are standardized in order to more easily compare similar foods. The serving size explains how large (or small, depending on the taste) one serving of the food is.
In this example, the serving size is 1 ounce, and the servings per container is 4 so if you would eat ounce, you’d be consuming 155 calories. However, if you were to eat the entire package, you would be consuming 620 calories, since there are 4 servings per container.
Next up are the calories and calories from fat headings. As we learned in a previous post, calories provide a measure of the amount of energy in the particular food. Remember to look at the serving size to determine how much energy there is in the actual amount that you eat, since the amount listed on the nutritional facts label is for ONE SERVING. I previously mentioned that one gram of fat provides us with 9 kcals; the ‘calories from fat’ heading does this calculation for us.
The rest of the label states the amount of macro and micronutrients in ONE SERVING of the food. The amounts are listed in both grams and in % daily value (sometimes abbreviated as %DV).
The %DV is based on the Institute of Medicine and US National Academy of Sciences recommendations as to how much of each nutrient an average person needs. These are based on a 2000 calorie diet, so if you eat more than this, you may have to aim for above 100%.
The ingredients are listed at the bottom in DESCENDING order, meaning that the first ingredient is present in the largest amount.
In the next post, i will delve a little deeper into exactly what to look for on the nutritional facts table, and some common questions/misconceptions.