How to Read a Nutrition Label: The Calorie Chart

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Apr 27, 2015

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Welcome back to our effort to help you learn how to read a nutrition label. If you missed the first installment – The Ingredient List – take a look and catch up. Today, we talk about how to use a food label’s calorie chart to calculate energy intake based on ‘percent of daily value.’

Understanding the calorie counter in food packages

If you’re counting calories conscientiously, you might be delighted to find them listed clearly on each nutrition label—but don’t take that at face value. Some mental maths may be in order.

“Most food labels list the calories only for a small portion of the packaged product that they identify as one serving,” says Chennai-based nutritionist Vijaya Sundaram. “So, if you’re eating a packets of crisps, the food label may read 100 calories for one serving of 40 grams—but you may end up consuming an entire pack with 80 grams of chips in it, not realizing that you’ve consumed double the calories.”

nutrition label, counting caloriesBe sure to check serving sizes not only for counting that meal’s calories, but also to plan your overall daily intake. A nutrition label may also list what percentage one serving is out of your total suggested consumption for the day. Eating a whole pack of something is fine once in a while, but you might want to consider, then, altering the rest of your diet that day to make sure you’re not getting too much of a single nutrient.

For example, take this nutrition label; let’s say it’s for a bottle of juice*. You may be tempted to drink it all in one sitting (after all, it is hot right now). But what would that get you? The package actually contains eight servings, at 230 calories per serving. This means you would consume 1,840 calories just through that one bottle of juice—almost the total daily caloric intake (1,800 – 2,000) recommended for adult women. Similarly, you would be getting 96% (12%*8 servings) of your total daily fat requirement

So, next time you binge on a bag of chips or seemingly healthy treats like juice and dried fruit, take a moment to do check the calorie counter in food and do some quick computation. It may kill your craving, but that might be a good thing.

*It’s not.

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Written By Kamala Thiagarajan

Kamala Thiagarajan is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the International New York Times, The Reader’s Digest (Indian edition), National Geographic Traveller, American Health & Fitness, Firstpost.com and more. She has written articles on the subjects of health, fitness, gender issues, travel and lifestyle for a global audience and has been published in newspapers and magazines in over ten countries. Visit her virtual home at kamala-thiagarajan.com or follow her @Kamal_t

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