UC San Diego Athletic Performance Nutrition Guide

Understanding Nutrition Labels

Understanding the Nutrition Facts Label is an important first step in making healthy food choices. In the US nearly all packaged food carry this newly designed label that is easy to use and takes the guesswork out of good nutritional information. The food labels provide information that allows you to make informed choices about the foods you each and how those foods may affect your athletic performance.

Serving Size

The top of the label tells you exactly how much of the product equals one serving size.  The line below tells how many servings are in the container.  Similar food products now list similar portion sizes, which make nutritional comparisons easy to make. Serving sizes are listed in common household and metric measures.  Although it is hard to know how much food you are always getting, below are some guidelines.

A good rule of thumb: 

* 2 ounces of dried spaghetti (yields 1 cup cooked): The diameter of a nickel

* 1 Cup of rice or pasta: A tennis ball or the size of your fist

* 12-ounce potato: A baseball

* 3 ounces of meat: A deck of playing cards or the palm of your hand

* 1 ounce of cheese: A pair of dice or the size of your thumb

Calories and Calories from Fat

The amount of calories listed, are the amount of calories contained in ONE SERVING.  Remember, a product that lists a low number of calories may have a small serving size.

Total calories are listed as well as calories from fat. This tells how many of the calories in one serving come from fat.  For example, in a serving of this product, 120 of the 260 calories are from fat. To calculate percent calories from fat, divide calories from fat (120) by the total calories (260) per serving and multiply by 100.   120/260= .46      .46 x 100= 46% of the calories are from fat

It is best to have 30% or less of the calories from fat.

% Daily Value

% Daily Value shows how a food fits into the overall daily diet based on a daily intake of 2,000 calories. Use these values as a guide to see if a food is high or low in a nutrient and to compare similar food products.

Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans-Fat

Total fat and saturated fat are listed in grams per serving, the lower the saturated fat, the better.  Soon, most labels will list all types of fat, including monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and trans-fat.  Trans-fat acts like saturated fat and is found to raise LDL (bad cholesterol).  Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are found to help reduce LDL, and even raise HDL (the good cholesterol).  So, monounsaturated is the best type of fat, followed by polyunsaturated.

Cholesterol and Sodium

The milligrams of cholesterol and sodium are listed for those who need to watch these numbers for health reasons, such as heart disease.  Many processed foods are high in sodium, and fatty foods high in cholesterol.

Total Carbohydrate

This number is how many grams of carbohydrate are present in one serving.  You will also see dietary fiber in grams and sugar in grams.  Some products also list “other carbohydrates” which are considered to be sugar alcohols.  These are often found in high protein products and absorbed into the blood at a slower rate, but may cause digestion problems.


This shows how many grams of protein are in one serving.

Daily Values Footnote

Some labels provide the daily values, the recommended intake of the nutrients listed for both a 2,000 and 2,500 calorie intake. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie intake.

·       Calories 2,000 - 2,500

·       Total Fat less than 65g - 80g

·       Sat Fat less than 20g - 25g

·       Cholesterol less than 300mg

·       Sodium less than 2,400mg

·       Total Carbohydrates 300g - 375g

·       Dietary Fiber 25g- 30g

Calories per gram

·       Fat 9

·       Carbohydrate 4

·       Protein 4

Calories Conversion Information

Some labels provide the number of calories in one gram of fat, carbohydrate, and protein.
Nutritional Facts Serving Size

·       1 cup (228g)

·       1 cup (8 ounces)


Supplied by UC San Diego Intercollegiate Athletics