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Feb. 10, 2010
Figuring Out The Food Label
Clif Kids PDF
I get questions from parents all the time about how we decide what nutrients go into a CLIF ZBaR.

A lot of people are surprised to learn that most nutrition facts on food labels are based on adult Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA).

Parents reading these labels would naturally assume the percent daily values (% DV) are a reflection of their kids’ nutritional needs, but this isn’t always the case. Because of this labeling misnomer, I need to be keenly aware of the RDA for kids and their food intake patterns when formulating our kids’ bars.

So, to solve for this confusion, I created a guide to help parents understand how much of each essential nutrient their kids should have each day. This chart uses CLIF ZBaR as a comparative example of how Clif Bar & Company fortifies foods based on kids’ RDA and how that translates to those percentages that appear on the food label.

You can download the guide here.

According to the Recommended Daily Allowance established by the Institute of Medicine, kids ages 4-8 need a certain amount of each nutrient and kids ages 9-13 need another. The chart shows the percent of each nutrient in a ZBaR and how that corresponds to the percent RDA for kids ages 4-8 and 9-13.

As you look at the chart, you may wonder why the percent daily value on the ZBaR package doesn’t match the columns of percent RDA for kids? The Food and Drug Administration requires that daily values be calculated based on a standard reference value (you can see these values in the column titled FDA Reference Values).

Translation: the percentages reflect those for adults, not for kids. Even though the percent on the package is calculated from an adult level (math whizzes can just divide the grams in ZBaR by the FDA Reference Values, to get the percentage), you can see that the nutrients in a ZBaR are in line with the varying needs of our eaters—kids!

Here’s an example:

The FDA Reference Value for iron is 18 milligrams. Kids need 10 or 8 milligrams depending on their age group. Based on this information, we add between 10 mg and 8 mg of iron, that’s between 18% and 23% of the kids RDA, an appropriate portion coming from a snack food. This amount translates to 1.8 mg and 10% as it appears on the food label. You can see that the amount formulated reflects the appropriate amount for kids.

Calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat, and fiber are presented in this chart as a range because needs vary based on weight, gender, and activity level for an individual child. Very physically active kids, like those who play multiple sports, can use 200-400 more calories per day than less active kids their age.

With a little math, and some match making, I hope this chart will help you better understand how those percentages on the back of packaged foods translate to the nutritional needs of your active, growing kids.

*Download your own copy of Tara's guide, Figuring Out Food Labels, for Kids here.
Posted by:
Tara, the RD
Food Matters

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