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Nutrition Facts: What They Can Look Like

There are all kinds of foods and drinks out there, each their own shape and size. Is the label the same on each one? Do they all give the same information? There are 6 main formats that the nutrition facts can be displayed in:


Classic Horizontal:

This type of label is possibly the most commonly used. You can find the calorie and serving data on the far left, with the fat, cholesterol, and sodium adjacent. To the right of that is the carbs and protein, and at the end is an optional table for estimating nutritional needs. On the bottom you will always find the vitamins and minerals.

See also: Get to Know Your Nutrients


A nutrition label
An example of the nutrition label on a loaf of bread


Classic Vertical:

This label would be the second-most commonly used. It is exactly the same as the previous label, except instead of showing the product’s nutrition from left to right, it is displayed top to bottom. Note that this label includes on the far bottom a reminder of how many calories are in a gram of each macronutrient.

See also: How are Nutrients and Calories Rounded?


A nutrition label
What the label on a tub of ice cream may look like



For instances like variety packs of chips, cereal, etc. an aggregate display is used. This is necessary because, as I explained in another post, flavor matters. As you can see, it is similar to the “Classic Vertical” display in that the serving size is on top and protein is on the bottom; however, because there are different items in this box, there are 4 columns: the key on the far left, with the 3 types of cereal to the right. Sort of like a spreadsheet format.


A nutrition label
What the nutrition facts may look like on a large bulk container of different cereals


Addition of Ingredient:

This is the most complicated of the 6 types, and fairly uncommon nowadays. It is a standard vertical layout, but it is modified to show the change in nutrition when adding an ingredient. Examples are dry cereal giving the nutrition before and after adding milk, rice showing the difference made when adding butter, or a cake mix with / without eggs.

See also: Who Decides What a Serving Size is, Anyway?


A nutrition label
What a label on a box of cookie mix may look like


Modified Horizontal:

Lastly, to save room on the label, manufacturers can choose to leave out the nutritional needs estimation table as shown above. In all other aspects, the label is identical.

See also: How to Understand and Apply the Nutrition Facts


A nutrition label
An example of a nutrition label for protein powder



This is the last of the 6 formats. It is only to be used when there is no room on the package to fit tables. It is used on small items and packets like single-serve drink flavorers, canned fish, small blocks of cheese, etc. On this label some abbreviations are allowed:


            • Serving size—                           Serv size
            • Servings per container—        Servings
            • Calories from fat—                  Fat cal
            • Calories from saturated fat—Sat fat cal
            • Saturated fat—                          Sat fat
            • Monounsaturated fat—           Monounsat fat
            • Polyunsaturated fat—              Polyunsat fat
            • Cholesterol—                             Cholest
            • Total carbohydrate—               Total carb
            • Dietary fiber—                           Fiber
            • Soluble fiber—                           Sol fiber
            • Insoluble fiber—                        Insol fiber
            • Sugar alcohol—                          Sugar alc
            • Other carbohydrate—               Other carb


A nutrition label
A possible nutritional label of a sweetener packet


To Summarize:

Just be aware that there are multiple ways the calories, nutrients, and servings can be presented on your foods and drinks. What you’re looking for is almost always there, just sometimes hidden.

Keep in mind that vendors, restaurants, fruits and vegetables, small companies, and foods that are normally eaten right they are bought do not require labels. However, large chain restaurants almost always have some nutritional data, whether online or on their menu.


Thanks for reading!





Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21, Chapter I, Subchapter B, Part 101, February, 2016. Accessed October 12, 2016.

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