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Understanding Nutrition Facts

How to Read Nutrition Labels

From vitamins and minerals to the food's ingredients, the nutrition facts label is your guide to the nutritional value of the foods you provide your kids. Understanding the nutrition facts can help you make healthier choices for your growing child.

You can read the nutrition facts label to determine the amounts of nutrients — like fat, protein, and fiber — in specific products. Knowing this information can help you decide whether a specific food or drink is right for your kid. Reading the ingredients list can also help you avoid foods your child might be allergic to.


 

Nutrition Facts for Kids: The Breakdown

Helping your child understand how nutrition facts work plays an important role in reinforcing healthy eating habits. Here's a quick, kid-friendly look at some of the key parts of the nutrition facts panel.

Nutrient
Why It’s Important
2 to 3 Years
4 to 8 Years
9 to 13 Years
Calories
Calories are units of energy your child's body needs to function properly.
1,000 to 1,400
1,200 to 1,800 (girls)
1,400 to 2,000 (boys)
1,600 to 2,200 (girls)
1,800 to 2,600 (boys)
Protein
Protein helps your child’s body build cells, break down food into energy, fight infection, and carry oxygen.
5 to 20% of daily calories
10 to 30% of daily calories
10 to 30% of daily calories
Total Fat
Fats are a great source of energy for kids and are easily stored by the body. They're also important in helping the body to properly use some of the other nutrients it needs.
30 to 40% of daily calories
25 to 35% of daily calories
25 to 35% of daily calories
Carbohydrate
Carbs are the body's most important source of energy. They help your child's body use fat and protein for building and repairing tissue.
45 to 65% of daily calories
45 to 65% of daily calories
45 to 65% of daily calories
Fiber
Fiber helps promote bowel regularity in children. It can also play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer later in life.
19 grams
25 grams
26 grams (girls)
31 grams (boys)
Calcium
Calcium is essential in helping to build your child’s healthy teeth and bones. It's also important for blood clotting and for nerve, muscle, and heart function.
500 milligrams
800 milligrams
1,300 milligrams

The more practice you get reading food labels, the better you'll become at using them as a tool to help your child get the proper amount of nutrition. For more information about how to use the nutrition facts label, check out the FDA's website.

1US Department of Health & Human Services. The report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2010.asp.