Nutrition Labeling- Part II

Who knew there was so much to a food package? To follow up on last week's nutrition labeling article, we'll cover a few more key items - % Daily Value and label claims.

% Daily Value_

These percentages are targeted at adults and children over 4 years of age and are derived from two separate references: Daily Reference Values (DRVs) and Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs).

These should not be confused with Dietary Reference Intakes, more commonly known as DRIs. DRVs and RDIs are based on adequate research, and though dated they provide a framework for the average American's 2000 Calorie Diet. What you see on the package is a simple interpretation of these two values combined into one (hopefully) more meaningful percentage known as the Daily Value. The goal of the % Daily Value (DV) is to assist consumers in interpreting information regarding the amount of a certain nutrient present in food, and to make comparing food products easier. For example, you could pick up a bag of pretzels and a box of saltines and quickly compare total fat by using the % DV per serving.

There are a couple things to keep in mind about % DV. One, it's based on a 2000 calorie diet which, depending on your age, weight, and other factors could be too many or too few. In other words, 65 grams of fat is too much for a sedentary 5 year old needing only 1400 daily calories daily, but not enough for an athletic adolescent in need of 3,000 calories each day. These recommendations also don't take into consideration disease-specific prevention guidelines such as "heart healthy" or "low glycemic index." For a middle age consumer at risk for heart disease, 2400 milligrams of sodium and 20 grams of saturated fat are far too high.

%DV are based on the following:



Total Fat

65 grams

Saturated Fat

20 grams


300 milligrams


2400 milligrams

Total Carbohydrate

300 grams


25 grams

Making the Claim

Nutrient Content Claims characterize the level of a given nutrient in a food. Examples include "Free," "Low," "Reduced/Less" and their approved synonyms. For example, "Zero," "Contains a small amount of," and "Lower," respectively.

• Examples include: "Trans Fat Free," "Low Calorie," or "Reduced Sodium" • Remember each has their own definition so let's learn from calories and fat:





Total Fat

Less than 0.5 grams per serving; contains no ingredient that is fat or is understood to contain fat

3 grams or less per 50 grams or less in a non-entree item; 3 grams or less per 100 g

rams of

a main dish/meal type item and not more than 30% fat

At least 25% less fat per serving than an appropriate reference food


Less than 5 calories per serving

40 calories or less per serving (50 grams or less) and120 calories or less per 100 grams

At least 25% fewer calories per serving than an appropriate reference food

• An example of a health claim is the paragraph on most oatmeal boxes that vaguely suggests that a diet rich in soluble fiber and low in saturated fat can decrease the risk of heart disease.

Qualified Health Claims are the technicality I mentioned above. There are only four of these and to the untrained eye (or even trained eye for that matter) they are difficult to spot because the language is similar to health claims; they are simply expedited health claims that do not require "Significant Scientific Agreement". They're still trustworthy so don't bother trying to distinguish between the quick and dirty version and the real thing.

Structure/Function Claims are statements seen on dietary supplements that describe the role of a nutrient pertaining to a specific bodily function. These are typically more vague and don't clearly establish a relationship between a given nutrient and disease. "Helps Maintain Iron-Rich Blood," on a bottle of iron tablets is one example. Note: These claims are typically linked by asterisk to this statement:

• "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."

Today's tidbits are just a reminder that EVERY word on a food label absolutely has meaning behind it. While there are entire regulatory departments at each major food company crossing their T's and dotting their I's, it's important to always remember to go with you what you know, not with what the label sells. Again, go in with a list and come out with what was on the list.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto