How to Read Nutrition Labels
for Weight Loss Results

Written by Diet Bites

Using Nutrition Labels to Lose Weight & Get Healthy

Want a leaner, stronger, healthier body? You can have that starting right now by doing one simple thing.

One simple thing you say? How can achieving so much come from doing so little?

By getting acquainted with food labels and nutrition facts on the products that you purchase.

They aren't as complicated as you may think - and we'll try to simplify them even more.

Food Label, Nutrition Label, Panel & Facts

The food label (also called 'the nutrition label', 'nutrition facts', 'nutrition panel' and 'the product label') contains information that will help you calculate the amount of the product that you consume into your daily diet.

Picture of Nutrition Label

Sample Label for Macaroni & CheeseTitle and Serving Size Information section of label, with number of servings.Calorie section of label, showing number of calories per serving and calories from fat.Total Fat, Saturated Fat Cholesterol, Sodium with Total Carbohydrate section of label, with quantities and % daily values.Remaining Carbohydrates, including Dietary Fiber and Sugars, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron section of label with % daily values, and quantities for fiber, sugar and protein.Footnote section of label, indicating quantities of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, and dietary fiber for 2000 and 2500 calorie diets.

What will you find on a Nutrition Label?

The following information should be included on the 'nutrition fact food label':

Nutritional Content of the Product (carbs, sugar, protein, fats, sodium)
Dietary Information for the Product
Serving Size Amounts
Number of Servings (generally measured in cups, pieces)
Calories per Serving
Food Calculations in Metrics, Grams, etc.
Ratio of fat-to-Calories Contained in Food
Trans Fat Info
Carbohydrate Information

The Most Important Information for Dieters Counting Calories on the Nutrition Label

There are three of the above items that Diet Bites feels are most important in the nutrition label because these three impact weight.

What will you find on a Nutrition Label?

This area defines the amount of food within the product that counts as a recommended serving size.

Keep in mind that almost 100% of the time, when a food is wearing a Nutrition Label - it's a commercially processed or refined food.

It may be a can of 100% fruit - which is very easy to place into one of the basic five food groups. It would go into the Fruit Group.

But then there are other products which can be confusing to identify as belonging to a specific food group. In fact, it may have properties which will fit into multiple groups.

An example is a box of potatoes which have special seasonings. The directions may call for milk or other ingredients which are part of other food groups. Therefore, there would be elements of the recipe which would count towards the recommended daily servings for other food groups.

And when we have products which generally require other foods to be combined with it, we also end up with multiple groups.

A great example is cereal. When cold, we can enjoy it straight from the box or container as a snack - so that selection will fit into the Grain Group. But when we add milk, we'll have a serving of grains and dairy.

And at times, the product won't fit into any food group. A good example is jelly beans which are about 100% sugar with minimal fat.

Keep in mind that while pre-packaged foods can be convenient, they are often excessive in unhealthy lipid and sodium content which can impact blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and heart health.

The effect may be minimal at the beginning, but over time the use of products excessive in salt, fats and calories can contribute greatly towards an unhealthy body.

More information on serving size amounts: Serving Size Amounts

Calories Per Serving

It would be wonderful if all fruits contained the same amount of calories per serving - as well as all grains, vegetables, proteins and dairy products. But alas, all differ. In fact, even same foods can hold different energy values. Examples include varieties of apples. A Gala apple will hold different energy values than a Jonathan or a Red Delicious or a Fuji. And of course, the size of the fruit also matters where calories are concerned.

Picture of food pyramid. In addition, even same-natural foods will differ in calories, based on where they are grown and harvested. A pineapple grown in the tropics will vary in energy content from a pineapple grown and harvested in the United States.

More information on this topic: Calories per Serving

Ratio of Fat-to-Calories Contained in Food

Simply put, this translates to 'the number of calories contained in the product which are derived from fat'. More information on this topic can be found in this Diet Bites health article: Ratio of fat-to-Calories Contained in Food

With this in mind, let's demonstrate how the nutrition facts label can impact your weight - as well as your overall health.

How to Use Data for a Healthier Diet

Say that you're wanting to enjoy a serving of dried cranberries.

Here's what to expect on the Nutrition Label:

Nutrition Facts Label
Dried Cranberries
Serving Size: 1/3 cup (40 grams)
Servings Per Container 4

Amount Per Serving

Calories 130

Fat Calories  0

 % Daily Values*

Total Fat 0 grams           


Saturated Fat


Trans Fat  


Sodium 0 mg                 


Total Carbs 33 grams


Dietary Fiber 2 grams


Sugars 27 grams


Protein 0 grams


*Based on a 2,000 Calorie Diet

Nutrition facts labels: how to read them and how to use them to lose weight.

Taking time to study nutrition labels is a lane to weight loss and better health.

While it may seem intimidating or frustrating to decipher the nutrition jargon, once you get used to specific areas to target amid your review, you'll soon know exactly what data to look for - and knowing such can impact your decision to purchase (or not to purchase) the product.

Our nutrition facts label for dried cranberries is posted on this page for reference.

We see that a serving size equals 1/3 cup of dried cranberries for 130 calories.

How to Interpret Nutrition Facts on Product Labels

Keep in mind that the recommended amount on Nutrition Fact Labels is:

A. Based on a 2,000 calorie daily diet.

B. The food may or may not be in the official Food Pyramid.

C. The food may contain low to high nutritional benefits.

D. And it's vital to keep in mind that nutrition labels rarely state anything to the effect of: 'A serving size of this food equals 1 serving of the Fruit Group' nor do they state the number of recommended daily serving sizes from a particular Food Group.


Because Ray who is male and is 250 pounds of solid lean muscle is going to require a different amount of servings from the Food Groups than 100 pound Mary.

This is just one reason why maintaining weight can be so complicated.

The variables spinning around recommended weight often clash with a plethora of nutritional data and the foods that we enjoy eating - most of which aren't natural in form or even close to Mother Nature.

Each of us has a specific amount of food and types of food that our bodies require each day, based on our individual composite.

Everyone Burns Energy at Varying Speeds

Each of us burn calories at different rates - so unless we're taught these things in science or health classes when we're ripe with wonder and attune to absorbing facts - we may struggle with proper and adequate nutrition throughout our lives.

Back to the cranberries nutrition label.

Our 1/3 cup of dried cranberries has zero fat, zero sodium, zero protein, a bit of carbs for quick energy and a bit of fiber.

The nutrition fact label also tells us that our dried cranberries are providing 11% of the carbs that we need for the day, as well as 8% of the recommended fiber. We can also count our treat as one serving of fruit.

We feel that the dried cranberries makes a good choice for a quick snack, even though fresh fruit would have been a better choice - particularly in the area of calories.

Nutrition Label Picture

Pay attention to the serving size, including how many servings there are in the food package, and compare it to how much YOU actually eat.

Serving Sizes

The size of the serving on the food package influences all the nutrient amounts listed on the top part of the label.

Example of Nutrition Label

In the sample label below, one serving of macaroni and cheese equals one cup. If you ate the whole package, you would eat two cups.

That doubles the calories and other nutrient numbers, including the %Daily Values as shown below (see Calories and %Daily Value for more information).

Picture Example of Nutritional Information on Food Label

Single Serving


      Double Serving %DV
Serving Size 1 cup (228g)   2 cups (456g)  
Calories 250   500  
Calories from Fat 110   220  
Total Fat 12g 18% 24g 36%
Trans Fat 1.5g   3g  
Saturated Fat 3g 15% 6g 30%
Cholesterol 30mg 10% 60mg 20%
Sodium 470mg 20% 940mg 40%
Total Carbohydrate 31g 10% 62g 20%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0% 0g 0%
Sugars 5g   10g  
Protein 5g   10g  
Vitamin A   4%   8%
Vitamin C   2%   4%
Calcium   20%   40%
Iron   4%   8%

When reading the nutrition label pay close attention to fat content, particularly Trans fat and saturated fat contained in the food.

Most nutrition labels contain the percentage of fat so even if a food is in-line with your daily calories needs, if it is high in total fat percentage it's not going to be the most healthy choice to insert into your daily diet plan.

Good Fats, Bad Fats & Heart Disease

As to fats, there are good fats and bad fats. Trans fats and saturated fats are the two biggest Fat Foes when it comes to heart and circulatory health. Over years, fats collect in the arteries thus contributing and triggering heart disease.

In many animals that don't live for a long period of time, fats don't tend to pose a problem as it takes time for the arteries to clog as fat deposits build. However, in the human body - we can live to over 100 years, thus allowing ample time for fat to collect and create health woes.

Just a few decades ago, young people and children falling victim to heart disease including fatalities from heart-related diseases was rare. In today's society, not so much as childhood obesity has skyrocketed - impacting and threatening our kids' good health.

Limiting fats, calories, snacks and serving sizes at meal times without taking second helpings can help get obesity in check. Couple a healthy diet with a good dose of activity - and we'll make our hearts strong and proud.

Diet Bites Related Articles

Believing in Weight Loss

Weight Loss Motivation - Over 50  Articles


Diet Bites  |  Disclaimers

Diet Bites is a Trademark