- Food and diet
- Eating a balanced diet
- 8 tips for healthy eating
- The Eatwell Guide
- Food labels
- Food labelling terms
- Reference intakes on food labels
- Starchy foods and carbohydrates
- Dairy and alternatives
- Meat in your diet
- Fish and shellfish
- The healthy way to eat eggs
- Beans and pulses
- Water, drinks and your health
- Eating processed foods
- Why 5 A Day?
- What counts?
- 5 A Day portion sizes
- 5 A Day tips
- 5 A Day FAQs
- Fat: the facts
- Salt: the facts
- Sugar: the facts
- Top sources of added sugar
- What does 100 calories look like?
- Red meat and the risk of bowel cancer
- What is a Mediterranean diet?
- 20 tips to eat well for less
- How to prepare and cook food safely
- How to store food and leftovers
- 10 ways to prevent food poisoning
- Why you should never wash raw chicken
- Cooking turkey
- How to wash fruit and vegetables
- The truth about sweeteners
- Sprouted seeds safety advice
- The vegetarian diet
- The vegan diet
- Vegetarian and vegan mums-to-be
- Vegetarian and vegan diets Q&A
- Recipes and tips
- Healthy breakfasts
- Surprising 100-calorie snacks
- 8 healthy eating tips
- How to eat more fibre
- Healthy food swaps
- Healthy breakfast cereals
- How to eat less saturated fat
- Tips for a lower salt diet
- How to cut down on sugar
- Healthier takeaways
- Food and drinks for sport
- Healthy eating for teens
- Digestive health
Reference intakes on food labels
You'll see reference intakes referred to on food labels. They show you the maximum amount of calories and nutrients you should eat on average in a day.
Daily reference intakes for adults are:
- Energy: 8,400kJ/2,000kcal
- Total fat: less than 70g
- Saturates: less than 20g
- Carbohydrate: at least 260g
- Total sugars: 90g
- Protein: 50g
- Salt: less than 6g
The reference intake for total sugars includes sugars from milk, fruit and vegetables, as well as added sugar.
See How much sugar is good for me? to learn more about added sugar and the type of sugars most of us should cut down on.
Reference intakes are not meant to be targets. They just give you a rough idea of how much energy you should be eating each day, and how much fat, sugar, salt and so on.
Unless the label says otherwise, reference intakes are based on an average-sized woman doing an average amount of physical activity.
This is to reduce the risk of people with lower energy requirements eating too much, and to make sure information on labels is clear and consistent.
How can I tell if a food is high in fat, saturated fat, sugars or salt?
Looking at the amount of each nutrient in 100g or a portion of a food can give you an idea of how much it contributes to your daily intakes. This information is sometimes also written on the label as a percentage of the reference intake, or % RI.
There are guidelines to tell you if a food is high in fat, saturated fat ("saturates"), sugars or salt, or not:
High in fat: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
Low in fat: 3g of fat or less per 100g
Saturated fat (saturates)
High in saturates: more than 5g of saturates per 100g
Low in saturates: 1.5g of saturates or less per 100g
High in sugars: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
Low in sugars: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g
High in salt: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g
Low in salt: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g
So, for example, if you're trying to cut down on sugar, you should eat fewer foods that have more than 22.5g of sugars per 100g.
If you want to eat less saturated fats, it's best to choose fewer foods that have more than 5g of saturates per 100g.
The "traffic-light" style colour coding on the front of food packs helps you see at a glance whether a food is high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) in fat, saturated fat, sugars or salt.
Read more about red, amber and green colour coding.