The Nutrition Facts Panel is a section of a food label that shows the serving size, calories and key nutrients (to name a few items) by percent daily value in one specifically measured amount of food.

The percent daily value helps to identify foods with high amounts of vitamins and minerals and lower in calories so a consumer can compare and choose foods which offer more nutrients per serving.

In order to begin interpreting the information found on the label, it is helpful to know the meaning of the terms to effectively analyze your food.

Here are definitions for many items you will find on the Nutrition Facts label.

Nutrients: The quality substances found in a food which nourish the body.

Serving Size: A term that indicates a fixed amount of food, such as one cup or one ounce, shown on the Nutrition Facts label. The amounts of nutrients listed on the label are based on this portion size.

Calories: A measure of the energy used by the body and the energy food supplies to the body.

Fat: A nutrient that supplies energy promotes health skin and growth and carries certain vitamins.

Saturated Fat: Fats that are solid at room temperature, such as the fat in meat, poultry skin and full-fat dairy products. These fats increase blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.

Trans Fat: Fats formed when liquid oils are made into solid fats like shortening and hard margarine. Normally found in foods such as cookies, snack foods and baked goods, these fats increase blood cholesterol levels and the risk for heart disease.

Cholesterol: A waxy substance found in every cell of humans and animals.

Sodium: A mineral nutrient that contributes to the movement of fluid in and out of the cells; regulates blood pressure and transmits nerve impulses.

Potassium: A mineral nutrient which helps muscles contract, regulates fluid/mineral balance in and out of body cells and helps to maintain normal blood pressure.

Carbohydrate: Essential nutrient that is the body’s main source of energy. Carbohydrates can be simple (i.e. sugar) or complex (i.e. starches).

Dietary Fiber: Plant material which cannot be digested.

Sugars: Simple forms of carbohydrate that are quickly absorbed. The names often end in “ose” as in sucrose, lactose or fructose.

Protein: An essential nutrient that helps the body grow, repair itself and fight disease; if needed, protein can also provide energy.

Daily Value (DV): Recommended amounts of key nutrients based on 2,000 calories per day diet.

Percent Daily Value (%DV): Shows specific amounts of nutrients in food. This makes it easier to compare the amounts of nutrients in a food to the amount of nutrients needed each day.

Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at

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