Guiding you beyond the GDA/RDA

This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard about the food label.

Throughout this site, particularly in the food group page I have talked about “reading the food label”. But labels can differ and can get confusing…

…So use the jargon buster below.

Because of the images and the jargon buster, this page is quite long so keep an eye out for the bold headers if you are looking for something specific.

You’ll find information on this page in the following order:

  • Various types of labels and their uses
  • The Jargon Buster of food label terms
  • How to understand the calories in food when outdoors
  • GDAs for Men, Women and Children
  • A link to GDAs (EU Values) for Vitamins and Minerals

Why bother reading labels?

It will give you an insight into how healthy/unhealthy the food or drink is. It’ll also help you manage, your balanced diet. The fat section is a good example, especially if you want to lose weight. Sodium is equally as important as it refers to the salt content.

So what do they look like?

1) The Typical Food Label
At the back of the pack you’ll usually see something like this.
Nutritional Information
Average Values Per 100g Per Serving
Energy 1563kJ
Protein 7.1g 1.9g
Of Which Sugars
Of Which Starch
Of Which Saturates
Of Which Mono-Unsaturates
Of Which Poly-Unsaturates
Of Which Trans
Fibre 3.7g 0.9g
Sodium 1.1g 0.3g


  • You won’t always see the of which starch info. This is because it is the the difference between the carbohydrate row and the of which sugars row.
  • This is usually the most comprehensive type of food label, with more information than visual forms
  • Aside from oil and butter, you’ll rarely see the following: of which Mono/Poly-unsaturates or even the of which Trans rows. If there is more fat than saturates, the difference will usually be mono/poly fatty acids. That is a good thing.


Learn more about Mono/Poly/Trans Fatty Acids here.

2) The Annoyingly Cramped Version
Find this label often? You may need the Jargon Buster!

Annoyingly, small products tend to have these labels so you reaally need to know what you’re looking for if you’re going to bother reading this type of food label.

Nutrition: Typical Composition. 100g contains: Energy 391kJ/94Kcal, Protein 4.7g, Carbohydrate 18.0g (Of which sugars) 13.3g, Fat trace, Fibre 2.4g, Sodium, 0.1g

Want to find real food labels for food on the net? Use the Calories in Foodgadget on the Free Calorie Counter page here.

3) Variable Traffic Light Labels
Usually, at the front of the pack, this is just one of the common types.


The traffic light food label tends to vary in shape from product to product. They refer to the serving size only so you can quickly judge whether a small portion will be okay to eat.

Example: Pizza can be unhealthy per 100g but eating half the pizza won’t be as unhealthy since it is a smaller portion.

Sometimes they will have percentages. They usually refer to the womens GDA of 2000 calories. Since most of the percentages are ugly numbers try rounding them till they’re nicer.

Keep reading here for more detail on the GDA/RDA values for men and women.

4) Other Visual Food Labels
Labels on the front may be like this or a traffic light label.

visual food label

Food Label Courtesy of The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) at

The Jargon Buster

Average Values/Typical Composition:

  • The per 100g section is important when you compare similar foods. For example, if you look at cream cheese, different brands have differnt fat content. You’d need to look at the ‘per 100g’ section to compare the fat.
  • The per serving section is only important if you will simply eat/drink a portion. For example, whilst most butter is high in fat, particularly saturated, you’re not exactly going to eat 100g of fat with your toast! Unless of course you eat an entire loaf of bread!
  • GDA/RDA – (Guideline Daily Amounts/Recommended Daily Allowances) Most average guidlines are based on the womens GDA but some will have the mens GDA on the pack as well.

Energy and Nutrition:


  • kJ – Scientific Measurement of energy (Not very useful unless your stranded on a deserted island)


For more info and the GI Database (where you’ll find the GI/GL of many foods and drink) click here.

  • Of which sugars – Refers to the ‘simple’ sugar content. Generally, more than 10g is high. Less thatn 2g is low.
    The exceptions to high/low amounts are foods with natural sugars. Like, fruit, veg, beans and pulses.

Learn more about simple carbohydrate here.

  • Fat – Whilst there are 4 fatty acids, generally you’ll only see one, the of which saturates row.
    More than 20g is a lot. Less than 3g is low.

Need more info on fatty acids? Find it here.

  • Fiber – Important fo a healthy bowel and better blood sugar control.

Learn more on the fiber page.

  • Sodium – Refers to the salt content. More than 0.5g is a lot. Less than 0.1g is little. Sodium is an essential mineral for water balance.

Find out the best way to drink water and and why drinking water is so important, here.

  • Trace – When there is less than 0.05g of anything it is listed as trace.

How can I read the food label if I eat out?

You probably can’t, so you’ll need to become more familiar with what you eat.

How do I do that?

Now, that you’re familiar with the food groups, it should be very easy to understand the typical calories found in each food group.

Understanding this is key if you want counting calories to become second nature.

So where can I learn about the typical calories in each food group?

I have created a 15 page ebook on the typical calories in food in a more user friendly PDF format. You can get your hands on a copy on the Calories in Foodpage here.

GDAs for Men, Women and Children

Below are the GDA’s for Men, Women and Children based on a caloric intake of 2500, 2000 and 1800 Kcal respectively.

Please note that only the one on the left is courtesy of The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) at

Since Men and childrens GDA values are hard to find I have created a table based on food labels used in the UK. These may vary slightly to other countries GDA values.

adult and children gdas

You can learn the EU values of other nutients below:

Head from the Food Label page to the Vitamins and Minerals page for the EU values of specific nutrients

Or return from Reading the Food Label to Healthy Diet