Why Does Nutrition Label Calories Don’t Add Up?

When buying food, the first thing that comes to our mind is the nutrition label. There’s always a list that shows the nutrients and calories.

However, you may notice that the nutrition label and calories don’t add up. But why does this happen?

There are a variety of nutrients in food items. Some of them are macronutrients and the rest are micronutrients. There can be some divisions in macronutrients. Often some micronutrients and the subdivisions of macronutrients are ignored in nutrition labels. That’s why they don’t match when added up.

The above briefing deals with a summarized portion of the whole topic. But we have catered all the things in the full article. So, to know the full details, please proceed further.

Nutrition Label Calories Don’t Add Up

Often the calories shown between food labels and calories in your meal tracking app varies. Nonetheless, it is a popular question, particularly among those who place a great value on accuracy.

And you might be more concerned if nutrition label fats don’t add up. Then you may think do nutrition labels lie about calories.

The more serious errors result from guessing portion sizes or calculating calories from items eaten out. 

Items are only required to be within 20% of the calorie amount specified on the label. This implies they can contain up to 20% more or less than what you track. 

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1. Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates that are used to sweeten tastes and add bulk and texture to dishes. They have less calories than sugar (1.5 to 3 calories per gram vs. 4 calories per gram). They also are commonly found in items branded “sugar-free” or “no added sugars,” such as gum and sugar-free energy drinks.

According to the FDA, if the product label does not claim the “health consequences of sugar alcohols or sugars (where sugar alcohols are present in the food),” they are not obliged to mention sugar alcohols on the label.

Consider the following illustration. The total carbohydrate nutrition label indicates 110 calories. However, when you add all the macronutrients, you get 117.5 calories.

24g of protein x 4 calories per gram = 96 calories

2g of carbs x 4 calories per gram = 8 calories

1.5g of fat x 9 calories per gram = 13.5 calories

Most sugar alcohols are only half absorbed by our systems. So you shouldn’t be concerned about the difference. If you want total carbohydrates sans sugar alcohols, remove half the grams from the total carb amount. 

The exception is erythritol, which human systems can not absorb at all. So, you may remove the entire amount of grams.

2. Alcohol

Alcohol is sometimes known as the fourth macronutrient. You can get seven calories per gram from alcohol.

Now, if we take a look at a USDA beer, we see they have 154 calories. This is according to the label. However, the math doesn’t add up.

13g carbohydrate x 4 calories per gram = 52 calories

6.4 × 1.6g protein x 4 calories per gram

Which equate to 58.4 calories. Your meal tracker will record this classification, but your macronutrients will appear “off” when compared to your calories. If you’re keeping track of macronutrients, I recommend one of three options:

  • Divide the total calories by 4 to get 38.5g of carbohydrates from the beer.
  • Divide the total number of calories by 9, and the beer has 17g of fat.
  • Divide the total calories by two and divide the result into carbohydrates and fat. That equals 19g of carbohydrates and 8.5g of fat.

3. Incorrect Entries

Some food-tracking applications, such as My Fitness Pal, rely on data input by the user. Let’s face it, errors happen. Even meals labeled with a green check mark may include errors from time to time.

If something doesn’t add up, check your daily entries. It is possible that the person who inputted the data did not input it correctly. 

4. Dietary Fiber

The body does not absorb fiber from the meals we eat. Instead, it travels via our stomachs, intestines, and colon. Some labels will deduct fiber from the overall quantity of carbohydrates to calculate net carbs.

It may happen that you’re only tracking net carbohydrates. But your meal tracker is logging total carbs. Then you’ll notice a discrepancy between what the label states and your total calories. In the settings of certain meal trackers, you may check net carbohydrates.

5. Foods Under 5 Calories

According to the FDA, goods with fewer than five calories can be marketed as calorie-free. Food labels are based on portions, not the complete product. 

Take, for example, a can of Pam spray. Each serving has 0 calories since a 1/4 second spray has fewer than five. The bottle, however, contains 500 servings. A regular spray bottle may have up to 1,000 calories.

How To Understand And Use Nutritional Labels

The main nutrition label information might differ depending on the food and beverage product. There can be information that is very product-specific such as serving size, calories, and nutrient information.

The bottom footnote explains the percent daily value. It also provides the number of calories used for general nutrition recommendations.

Serving Related Information 

Looking at the nutrition label, the number of servings in the box should be considered first. And the serving size should also be given importance. There are standard serving sizes to make it simpler to compare similar items. 

Standard serving sizes are counted in common units. For example, cups or pieces are considered standard serving sizes. Also, the metric quantity, such as the number of grams (g), etc. are counted as well. The serving size represents how much individuals generally eat or drink. It is not advice that you must strictly follow.

All nutritional values on the label, including the number of calories, affect the serving size. So, be careful enough to observe the serving size.  And observe the number of servings in the food packaging. For example, you could wonder if you’re eating 12 servings, 1 serving, or more. 

Let’s say, the sample label indicates one serving of lasagna is one cup. So, in case you eat two cups, it will be considered two servings. And you’ll have to double count the number of calories and nutrients listed on the sample label. This is to know how much you receive in two servings. Thus you can also calculate calories from fat on nutrition labels.

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How To Understand And Use Nutritional Labels


Calories work as a measurement of how much energy you get from a meal. One dish of lasagna, for example, has 280 calories. So, when you eat the entire package, that means you consumed 4 servings or 1,120 calories.

Balancing the number of calories you eat and drink is necessary for maintaining a healthy body. This can help you maintain a healthy weight also.

2,000 calories per day are considered a standard amount. Your calorie requirements may be more or lower. Age, gender, height, weight, and amount of physical activity can bring differences in calorie requirements.


The label can help you to support your own dietary needs. You may seek items that have more of the nutrients you want.

Saturated fat, salt, and added sugars are elements that may be connected with negative health impacts. And Americans usually consume too much of them. 

It is recommended to limit these nutrients. They have been recognized as nutrients to consume less of. Consuming too much-saturated fat and salt is linked to an increased risk of developing certain health disorders. For example, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

Added Sugar vs Total Sugar

Total Sugars on the label indicates naturally contained and added sugar in many healthful foods and beverages. For example, sugar in milk and fruit are natural sugars. On the other hand, there may be added sugars that may be included in a product.

Sugars added during the preparation of foods are there on the nutrition label. Foods marketed as sweeteners are also added there. The label doesn’t avoid sugars from syrups and honey, or concentrated fruit or vegetable juices also.

The Percentage Daily Value 

The percent Daily Value indicates the requirement for each nutrient in a food serving. The Daily Values are reference quantities of nutrients to help you decide what to consume each day.

The percentage DV indicates the contribution of a nutrient in a serving of food.

The percent DV thus shows whether a serving of food is high or low in a nutrient.

Is it necessary to know how to compute percentages in order to use the percent DV? No, since the label (the percent DV) performs all of the work! 

The percent DV does not reach 100 percent vertically. It is just the proportion of the Daily Value for each nutrient in a food serving. It can indicate whether a serving of food is high or low in a nutrient. Also, whether a portion of food adds a lot or little to your daily intake. This is counted for each nutrient.

After this long discussion, now you know why does nutritional information not add up to 100g.


What are three important pieces of information on a Nutrition Facts table?

There are 3 most important things to look for on a nutrition label. Among them, the first is the serving size. The second is the Percent Daily Value (%DV). And the last is the Best Profile.

What purpose can a nutrition facts table fulfill?

A nutrition facts table may be used to learn about a food’s nutritional worth (calories and nutrients). It helps to check & find if a food includes a little or a lot of a nutrient. It assists in comparing two goods to make educated dietary decisions.

What’s the inaccuracy range of nutrition labels?

Nutrition labels can be around 20% inaccurate. This inaccuracy occurs mainly when you try to list the calories. However, this doesn’t affect a healthy diet much. But if you’re concerned too much, you can stick to unprocessed foods.


We discussed a lot of things about why nutrition label calories don’t add up. Now it’s time to say goodbye. Hopefully, you enjoyed the whole article.

It’s normal for you to be concerned about the nutrition labels not adding up. However, now you’ll be able to clear out the confusion. We’re signing off here. Have a good day.

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