A Guide To Understanding Food Nutrition Charts

Food nutrition charts offer dieters an easy way to find foods that are good for them–assuming they can read the labels! If you know where to look, virtually everything that’s edible now bears a label that tells you what you need to know about serving size, calories, fat and nutritional content. If you’re having a hard time making sense of food label information then fear not; we’ll walk you through a standard nutrition facts chart, and next time you’ll be ready to tackle the supermarket on your own.

Serving Size and Calories Per Serving

The first piece of information provided on the nutrition facts table is the serving size and how many servings are included in the container. The next section on the food nutrition chart immediately below serving information is calories (per serving) and calories from fat (per serving). For dieters on a calorie counting plan, this is important information. When you look at the calorie and fat content, it is important to remember that those numbers are per serving not per container.

Calculating Total Calories

Some items that may seem like single servings (like a bottle of soda or a small carton of ice cream) can actually contain several, so if you intend to consume the whole product in one sitting, calculate the total calorie or fat content by multiplying the calories/fat per serving by the number of servings included. When looking at the calories per serving section, remember that the FDA considers 40 or less low, 40-100 moderate and 400 calories or more per serving high.

Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium 

The next section on the food label is information about nutrients that should be limited: fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. The content is listed in both grams per serving and percentage of daily value.  Daily value is based on the FDA’s standard 2000-calorie diet.  If for example the item has 20% fat content, that means that on a healthy diet you would get one-fifth of your allotted fat from consuming one serving of the item in question.  Dieters with conditions like high blood pressure would also be wise to pay attention to cholesterol and sodium intake.

The Good Nutrition 

Next on the food nutrition chart is the information that South Beach and Atkins dieters should be looking for: carbohydrate, fiber, sugar and protein content.  These amounts are also calculated in both grams and percentage of daily value.  After protein comes four more important nutrients—the ones you want plenty of in ANY diet: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium and iron.  These nutrients are measured only in percentage of daily value, so if you are not following the FDA diet remember: 5% or less of any of these nutrients is low and 20% or more is high (but in a good way).


Finally, at the bottom of every nutrition label is a footnote that reminds readers of the FDA’s recommended calorie and nutrient intake. If your diet of choice has different recommendations, then be sure you know them so you can choose appropriate foods using the nutrition labels.

Although food nutrition labels can seem hopelessly complex, they’re really not that hard to understand once you learn how to interpret the information.


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