Determining the Nutritional Value of Foods

a food label showing nutritional value
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It's wise to want to know the nutritional value of the foods you eat. A healthy diet is vital for feeling your best—strong, happy, and energetic. It's also a proven way to reduce the risk of disease and to help manage the symptoms of a number of health issues.

Luckily, you won't have to look far to find the nutritional value of your favorite foods. Start at the grocery store. If you need the information for packaged foods, it's available on the Nutrition Facts labels. These labels are on the back, bottom, or side of the package, along with the ingredients list. Or you can view the information online. Most manufacturers' websites publish nutritional data for their products.

What's on a Nutrition Label

Nutrient Facts labels are required by the government to include a wealth of information to help you make informed food decisions. For starters, they have to identify how many servings are in the package, can, or bottle. Additionally, they must include information about calories (the total calories and calories from fat), total fat, trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fat, sugars, and protein per serving.

Nutritional labels also must provide details about two vitamins (A and C) and two minerals (calcium and iron), though food companies can voluntarily list other vitamins and minerals in the food.

If you're doing more cooking these days, you'll want to learn the nutritional value of the individual ingredients used in your favorite healthy recipes. Again, the ingredients that are packaged have the nutrition information on the label. But fresh fruits and vegetables, some bakery goods, and items from the deli and meat department won't have labels. This means you'll have to do a little investigating.

Online Databases

You can do this work online. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains a nutritional value database called FoodData Central. It has nutritional information for all kinds of foods and is much more in-depth than a standard food label. Just search for your favorite foods and select the serving sizes you need.

If you also want a quick tally of your food choices, the Food Calorie Calculator, which is powered by the USDA National Nutrient Database, keeps track and displays a summary. And if you want to research nutritional guidelines you can use a site such as

There are also smartphone apps and websites such as MyFitnessPal or Lose It where you can search for your favorite foods. Many calorie-counter apps allow you to scan a food's barcode to easily locate its nutrition facts label, so you can make smarter-in-the-moment decisions. 

Recipe Nutrition Calculators

Recipe nutrition calculators are another option for analyzing the calorie and nutrition facts for foods you're preparing yourself. A host of these digital tools are available, including one from Verywell Fit. Simply enter the ingredients and serving size to get started.

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.