How to Read a Food label? Part 2

In the previous blog we learned why ingredients and other details which contribute to legal and quality characteristics of a product. This blog will help you understand what to read on a label which directly affects your health and diet and how to easily interpret these details before you cash out that attractive looking pack of food item.

The Main Visual Points (MVPs)-

These are information you already know and catches your eye the moment you spot the product on shelf.

  • Name of the Food/Brand name
  • Minimum Retail Price (MRP)
  • Date of Manufacture/Date of Expiry/Use by date/ Best before date
  • Claims such as “No added sugar”, “No preservatives/Preservative free”, “Zero Cholesterol”
  • Net quantity of the product
  • Veg (or) Non-Veg logo

These are usually front of pack information or information that is meant to be clearly legible to a consumer for general knowledge. Often these points play a vital role in the initial purchase decision for a product.

The Nutrition Facts-

These are information focusing on the nutritional quality of the product. The values can often be confusing and look like plain data to your eyes, but once you know how to easily interpret these, they become the main reason for you to purchase the product.

  • Serving size

On every nutrition fact table, the first thing you notice is the serving size, which is often mentioned as per 100 g or per serving size. The serving size reflects the amount that people typically eat or drink. It is not a recommendation of how much you should eat or drink. Serving size is accompanied with similar household units for easier understanding, like per cup, per teaspoon, per block etc., followed by metric units in (g).

Pro tip- Every nutrition fact table is calculated taking into consideration the suggested serving size. In the sample label given below, serving size is 2 blocks of chocolate, meaning if you consume 2 blocks of chocolate, you will be consuming the given amount of calories. If you consume 4 blocks at once, you will be consuming double the amount of calories as mentioned on the pack.

                                                                                                                               Nutrition Information
Serving Size2 Blocks (25.2 g)      
 Per 100 gPer Serving Size
Energy557 Kcal184 Kcal

                                                                                                     Food label serving size

  • Calories

This is the most important fact everybody observes.  Calories are the energy value the body gains on consuming the product at recommended serving size. 2,000 kcal per day is the recommended level for adults.  Your calorie needs may be higher or lower and vary depending on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level.

Pro tip- In the example label given, one serving of chocolate (2 blocks) provides you 184 Kcal of calories. If you eat the entire bar of chocolate at once (8 blocks) you will end up consuming 736 Kcal of calories.

                                                                                                                               Nutrition Information
Serving Size2 Blocks (25.2 g)      
 Per Serving Size (2 Blocks)8 Blocks              
Energy184 Kcal736 Kcal

                                                                                                  Calories comparison

  • Nutrients-

This part of the fact table covers all your required nutrients. Consumers often focus on these as this table can help you make an informed choice as to whether the product will contribute to your nutrient requirements or not.

  • Nutrients you should reduce/control in your diet-
    With an increasing awareness to reduce and control consumption of saturated fats, sodium, added sugars, trans fat, and cholesterol, products which contain low amounts of these are often a good choice.


What are total sugars and added sugars?

Total sugars: In simple words, total sugars are naturally present in the food and beverage (from fruits and milk) along with sugars added additionally to a product.

Total sugars = Naturally occurring sugars + Added sugars during processing


Added sugars: These are sugars added additionally during processing of a product. Examples are sucrose, dextrose, sugars from syrups and honey etc.


Artificial sweeteners: These are ingredients that provide the sweetness to a product, but do not have any calorific value and thus are most commonly used by manufacturers in producing sugar free products.

Pro tip- When you see a product with the claim “No added sugars” it only conveys that additional sucrose/dextrose weren’t added during processing of the food. The food could be containing naturally occurring sugars/ added artificial sweeteners instead which you can find out by reading the nutrition fact table/ingredients. On the nutrition fact table, when total sugars are declared it includes naturally occurring sugar and added sugars.


  • Nutrients you should get more of in a diet-

Nutrients like dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, contribute to a healthier diet. These are nutrients you should focus on if you want your product to provide a balanced nutritious diet.

  • Vitamins and Minerals-

Humans need their vitamins and minerals for a well-balanced healthy diet. You will find numerous products at the market that claim to be “Fortified” or “Enriched” or “Contains” or “Rich in” vitamins and minerals which add to the products quality and overall buying acceptance.

The US FDA nutrition labelling regulations have always emphasized on labelling selected essential vitamins and minerals (Vitamin D, Iron, Calcium & Potassium) which they insist are essential for their citizens. The FSSAI law dictates that vitamins and minerals should be declared on a product label if added additionally/claimed.

You can find this information clearly given on your nutrition fact table, making it easier to purchase products that contribute to your daily essential vitamin or minerals intake.

  • Percent Daily Value (DV)-

The amount of nutrients you consume daily are guided by data called as “Recommended Daily Allowance” meaning depending on your age, gender, lifestyle choices, the daily amount of a specific nutrient like protein or fat you should consume is defined by the RDA.

You will find a column called “% RDA” or “% DV” on the nutrition facts table for few products. These values indicate the amount of nutrient contributed to your daily diet on consumption of the product at recommended serving size.

Pro tip- Easy thumb role to understand if the product is high or low in the said nutrient, if the value mentioned is 5 % and below, it indicates that the product is low in the given nutrient. If the value is 20 % and above, it indicates that the product is high in the given nutrient (US FDA reference).

Look for products which are high in dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, proteins for a healthier diet, and try to avoid products which are high in fats, saturated fat, cholesterol.

% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9g12 %        
Saturated Fat 4.5g23 %
Trans Fat 0g 
Cholesterol 35mg12 %
Sodium 850mg37 %
Total Carbohydrate 34g12 %
Dietary Fiber 4g14 %
Total Sugars 6g 
Includes 0g Added Sugars0 %
Protein 15g
Vitamin D Omcg0 %
Calcium 320mg25 %
Iron 1.6mg8 %
Potassium 510mg10 %
* The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 Calories a day is used for general nutrition advice 

% Daily Value

To help make easier choices while selecting nutritious foods, next time you pick up a pack of food at any store, take some time to read through the nutrition facts apart from the MVPs of the product.

All food packs have ample amount of information labelled on them, it is you and me who need to read and understand what is important and interpret the same with facts to make the final purchase decision.

At TUV India, our team of experienced and highly skilled experts support manufacturers and related stakeholders with ensuring that their product meets the required quality and safety requirements and the information being given to the consumers on the label are fact checked and relevant.