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nutrition label

How do the Daily Values found on food labels compare to the nutritional recommendations for children?

Comparing the relative nutritional content of foods using the Nutrition Facts panel can help parents and children buy and eat healthier foods. Parents and teens who understand how to use the Daily Values to fit individual foods into a healthy diet also gain more control over their nutritional health and body weight.

For example, dietary surveys, as well as CNRC research, suggest that adolescent girls tend to fall far short of the calcium and iron recommendations for their age group. This suggests that teenage girls would be wise to check the foods they eat for these nutrients. Teens who are trying to watch their weight, on the other hand, can use the information on calories per servings, serving size and the grams of fat and sugar to help keep calories in check. Many of fast-food restaurants also voluntarily provide nutrition information about the foods they serve upon request.

When inspecting food labels, keep in mind that vitamins A and C, iron and calcium have clearly defined recommendations for children. For example, 1- to 3-year-old children need 500 milligrams of calcium each day, while their 4- to 8-year-old siblings need 800 milligrams a day.

On the other hand, the nutritional recommendations for saturated fat and total fat are linked to a child's caloric intake, while calorie recommendations are based on a child's age, sex, height, weight, and activity level. To reflect this variability, the Nutrient Recommendations by Age in the table below are given as a range for some nutrients.

How Food Label Reference Values (DV)
Compare to the
Nutritional Recommendations for Children

 
Nutrient 
 
DV 
Nutrient Recommendations by Age (DRI)*

2 - 3
years

4 - 8
years

9 - 13
years

14 - 18 yr
girls

14 - 18 yr
boys

Protein (grams)

50

13

19

34

46

52

Iron (mg)

18

7

10

8

15

11

Calcium (mg)

1,000

500

800

1300

1300

1300

Vitamin A (IU)

5000

1000

1333

2000

2333

3000

Vitamin C (mg)

60

15

25

45

65

75

Fiber (g)

23

14 - 19

19 - 23

23- 28 (girls)
25- 31 (boys)

23

31-34

Sodium (mg)

2400

1000- 1500

1200- 1900

1500-2200

1500-2300

1500-2300

Cholesterol (mg)

300

<300 for over age 2

<300

<300

<300

<300

Total Fat (g)**

65

33 - 54

(30 -35% of calories)

39 - 62

(25 - 35% of calories)

62 - 85

(25 - 35% calories)

55 - 78

(25 - 35% calories)

61 - 95

(25 - 35% of calories)

Saturated Fat (g)**

20

12 - 16
(> age 2 )

(<10% calories)

16 to 18

(<10% calories)

girls:
18-22
boys:
20-24

(<10% calories)

22

(<10% calories)

24 - 27

(<10% calories)

Calories***

2000 

1000 - 1400
(2-3 years)

1400-1600

girls:
1600-2000
boys:
1800-2200

2000

2200- 2400

Iron, calcium, vitamin C: These values reflect the 1999 - 2001 Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) from the Institutes of Medicine

Source: Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamins and Dietary Reference Intakes: Elements,
- Institutes of Medicine, 1999- 2002

Protein: These values reflect the 2002 Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) updates from the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences. As a point of reference, 3 ounces of lean beef, which is a serving about the size of a deck of cards, provides 30 grams of protein. A cup of milk contains 8 grams of protein.

Age Recommended Protein Intake
(grams/kg body weight/day)
1 to 3 1.1
4 to 13 0.95
14 to 18 0.85
   

Source: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients, Institutes of Medicine, 2002

Vitamin A: Recommendations for vitamin Aare also often expressed using Retinol Equivalents (RE) or micrograms (µg) of retinol (the chemical name for vitamin A). The conversion factors for these different vitamin A measurements are:

3.3 IU = 1 RE  = 1 µg     

Source:Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamins
- Institutes of Medicine, 1999- 2002

Fiber: Based on 14 grams/1000 calories
Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Carbohydrates

*Sodium: The higher number in each age category reflects the Upper Limit (maximum level that is likely to pose no risk of adverse effect) recommended by the Institutes of Medicine. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommended Americans consumer less than 2300 mg. (approximately 1 tsp.) of sodium/day and point out that Approximately 75 percent is derived from salt added by manufacturers. The average intake in the United States is between 4,000 and 5,000 milligrams of sodium per day.

Source: IOM 2004 Dietary Reference Intakes: Electrolytes and Water
Also see: 2005 Dietary Guidelines form Americans: Sodium & Potassium

Fat: Recommendations fat are linked to caloric intake and recognize the difference between heart-healthy fats (such as vegetable oils) and saturated fats, which are linked to heart disease.  As a result, the recommended total fat intake for children ages 1 - 3 is 30 - 40% of total calories and for children over the age of 3 and adults, the recommendation is no more than 25 - 35 percent of total daily calories from fat. As a result, the values for fat and total fat in the table are based on the average caloric intakes of the youngest and oldest children within each age group.

Source: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Fat, Protein and Amino Acids (Macronutrients), Institutes of Medicine (2002)

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol: Although humans have no nutritional need (requirement) for saturated fats (animal fats), research suggests a strong link between high intake of saturated and trans fats and cholesterol and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. As a result, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend that Americans over the age of 2 consume less than 10 percent of their total calories from saturated fat and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol and keep trans fats as low as possible.

See: 2005 Dietary Guidelines form Americans: Fats

***Calories: Source: 2005 Dietary Guidelines form Americans: Adequate Nutrients Within Calorie Needs

Chart values: The values reflects the needs of a moderately active (about 1 hr/day) children within each age range.  Inactive children need somewhat fewer calories, active children will need more calories.

Children who are very active (more than 1 hour per day on most days) need more calories, while those who are relatively inactive need less. 

To obtain a more accurate estimate of your child's energy needs based on his/her age, gender, height, weight, and activity level, see the CNRC's Kid's Energy Needs Calculator.

Also See:

2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Food Label Makes Good Eating Easier
Food label Education Program for Teens

Consumer News-- Facts and Answers

 

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