We see them on every item in a grocery, but likely don’t know how to use the information contained there, its accuracy or how its determined. Here are some answers.

-The percentage of daily values that the label tells you that you get from this product is based on a 2,000 calorie daily food intake, in most cases

-A calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1 degree Celsius

-The law governing nutritional labels allows up to a 20% variance. In other words, and serving listed at 100 calories could actually contain 120 and still be compliant

-The calorie information contained in a label is determined using the Atwater system, which breaks the food item down into protein volume, carbohydrate volume, fat volume, the multiplying those volumes by 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates and proteins and 9 calories per gram for fat. Carbohydrate amounts may be reduced by the amount of fiber content.

-The FDA does not approve or certify the information contained in food labels. It does have a standard for which the information contained there and may recall a product if the information is found to be inaccurate in an inspection or audit

-Restaurants with 20 or more locations are required to provide calorie content on menus but additional nutritional information only has to be provided upon request. The information they are required to provide upon request is total calories (cal) , total fat (g), saturated fat (g), trans fat (g), cholesterol (mg), sodium (mg), total carbohydrate(g) , dietary fiber (g), sugars (g) and protein (g).

-Restaurants can submit their recipes to independent companies that provide nutritional content analysis as one of their services. The actually amount of each ingredient can vary in the actual restaurant.

-If they are naturally part of the food, only two vitamins (C and A) and two minerals (calcium and iron) must have their values included on the label. If other vitamins or minerals or added to that food, or if it advertises a content of another vitamin or mineral, that information must be provided as well. Sodium content must also be disclosed.

-Raw vegetables, fruits, fish and low or no nutritional content foods (coffee, tea) are not required to provide nutritional labels

-Ingredients are listed by volume, from largest to smallest. Hence, the first ingredient listed has the largest amount contained in the product.

Jim Harris is a Certified Master Personal Trainer, Certified Nutritionist, founder of Max Results Personal Training, pulse45 Fitness and owner of BodyPlex Oakwood. He also writes for numerous publications, and has been featured in multiple media outlets.