The FDA created the Nutrition Facts label to ensure that sufficient nutrition information is on all food products, including cereal boxes. Some cereals also include an overview of basic nutrition on the front of the box, highlighting calories, fat, sodium (salt), sugars, fiber and various other nutrients.
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Nutrition Facts Label
Information on the label always follows the same order, so once you read a few, you’ll be able to quickly find the specific information you want. Cereal box Nutrition Facts have three--and sometimes four--columns. The first column lists the nutritional item, the second column is nutrition information for cereal only and the third column contains values for the cereal with ½ cup of milk added. Some cereals have a fourth column that indicates the nutritional value for children under the age of 4.
The first two pieces of information are a definition of the serving size and the total number of servings in the box of cereal. The serving size, which for most cereals is ¾ to 1 ¼ cups, is a great tool to help determine if you’re eating too much or too little. If the company has included child-specific information, you’ll find a second serving size and number of servings in the box based on the children’s portion. All of the nutrition information that follows on the label is for one serving size.
The next section of information consists of basic nutrient values including the number of calories (per serving), calories obtained from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars, other carbohydrates and protein. In this section, two different types of measurements are provided: weight and percentage of the recommended daily value. The weight of one serving is presented in grams (abbreviated as g) and milligrams (mg). The percent of daily value helps you determine if you're obtaining adequate nutrition to maintain health. Keep in mind that this percentage is based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, so the percent of nutrition you obtain changes if your diet includes a different number of calories.
Vitamins and Minerals
All of the significant vitamins and minerals that are present in the cereal are listed together with the percent of daily nutritional value they provide.
Following the nutrient information, the label includes a list of the recommended daily requirements of fat, cholesterol sodium, potassium, carbohydrates and fiber for 2,000-calorie and 2,500-calorie a day diets.
Near the bottom of the Nutrition Facts is a comprehensive list of ingredients in the cereal. The ingredients are listed in order according to the amount. The first ingredient on the list is always found in the largest amount and the ingredient present in the smallest quantity is always last. Most labels separate the primary ingredients used to make the cereal from the vitamins and minerals that were added.
Warnings and Exchange Value
If the cereal contains any ingredients that should be avoided by people with allergies, there will be a simple statement after the ingredients such as: “Contains wheat and milk.” Cereal boxes also include a statement of the exchange value for one serving based on the American Diabetes Association exchange lists.