Food Label FAQ: Using The Nutrition Facts Panel

Confused about food labels and the Nutrition Facts Panel on packaged foods? Get your questions answered here.

What does % Daily Value mean?

This shows you the percentage of nutrients in the food, based on getting 2,000 calories a day and the daily requirement for it.

To make the best choices:

  • Choose foods with 5% to 10% Daily Value or less in nutrients we tend to overdo: saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
  • Choose foods with 20% Daily Value or more in nutrients we tend to lack: fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamins A, C, and E, and for some people, protein.

What if I need more, or less, than 2,000 calories per day?

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Look at the calories per serving to get an idea of how the food fits into your needs for the day. Per serving, the healthiest foods are low to moderate in calories but rich in nutrients.

For example, if you’re on a 1,600-calorie diet, a food with 400 calories per serving would take up 25% of your daily calories. It may not be worth it. But if you’re an athlete trying to eat 3,000 calories a day, it might be a fine choice.

Is the calcium in fortified foods just as good as natural sources like dairy?

U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend roughly 3 servings a day (depending on age) of low-fat or nonfat dairy because dairy is packed with many nutrients, not just calcium. Dairy also has protein, potassium, and vitamin B12. Milk has vitamin D, too. Calcium-fortified foods may not have those other nutrients.

Ideally, you should get calcium from foods that have it naturally. When that is not possible, calcium-fortified foods can help you get there. If you still have trouble meeting your calcium needs, ask your doctor about calcium supplements.

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