Eating Well As You Get Older

Frequently Asked Questions

16. What does the Nutrition Facts label on packaged and canned food and drink tell me?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a Nutrition Facts label on all processed foods. The label is all white with black letters. (The labels on this page are color coded for educational purposes.)

(Note: The FDA recently proposed updates to the Nutrition Facts label to reflect the latest scientific information linking diet and chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease. Proposed updates include a new design that better highlights key parts of the label such as calories and serving sizes.)

You can use the label to help you keep track of how much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, cholesterol, sugars, and calories you are getting from different foods.

As you will see when you click on the image on the right, the Nutrition Facts label tells you

  • the serving size (i.e., how large one serving of the food is)
  • how many servings of the food are in the container
  • how many calories are in one serving of the food
  • which nutrients the food provides
  • the percent Daily Value (written as “% Daily Value”).

The Daily Value is how much of each nutrient most people need each day. The percent Daily Value (“% Daily Value”) tells you what percentage of the recommended daily amount of a nutrient is in a single serving of the food, based on the nutritional needs of a person eating 2,000 calories a day.

For example, on this label for macaroni and cheese, the Percent Daily Value for total fat is 18%. This means that one serving of macaroni and cheese (1 cup) will give you 18 percent of the total amount of fat you should allow yourself each day, assuming you eat about 2,000 calories daily.

Keep in mind that the calories, and nutrient amounts, and percentages listed in the Nutrition Facts are for one serving only. The package might contain two or more servings. If you eat two servings, you would consume twice the calories, fat, sodium, carbohydrates, protein, etc., as you would for one serving.

For more information on the Nutrition Facts label, see How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label and Eating Healthier and Feeling Better Using the Nutrition Facts Label.