Nutrition Facts Labels and the CACFP
Institute of Child Nutrition
May 11, 2023
The Nutrition Facts label on food packages provides helpful information. For example, it features key information for crediting tofu and determining if a yogurt or cereal meets the sugar limit requirements in the CACFP. It is a great tool to use when planning menus to determine creditable foods.
A Nutrition Facts label displays nutrient quantities based on the listed serving size of the food. The serving size may be different from the serving sizes specified in the CACFP meal pattern. Our partners at the Institute of Child nutrition created a resource focused on how to use the Nutrition Facts label to credit certain foods in the CACFP.
Determine Creditable Food Items
CACFP program operators use the Nutrition Facts label to determine if tofu, yogurt, and breakfast cereals are creditable. Here is a closer look at how to use the Nutrition Facts label information for each of these foods.
In the CACFP, 2.2 ounces (1/4 cup) of commercially prepared tofu, containing at least 5 grams of protein, is creditable as 1.0 ounce equivalent meat alternate.
- 1.0 ounce meat alternate = 2.2 ounces (1/4 cup) with at least 5 grams of protein
Use the Nutrition Facts label to determine if tofu is creditable. Looking at the Extra Firm Tofu Nutrition Facts label:
- Serving size = 3 ounces (84 grams)
- 3 ounce portion provides 9 grams of protein
Since this example is for a 3 ounce serving, you must determine the number of grams of protein per ounce so you can calculate how many grams of protein are in a 2.2 ounce serving. Divide the grams of protein (9) by the Serving size (3 ounces) to get grams per ounce.
- 9 grams protein ÷ 3 ounces = 3 grams protein per ounce
Next, calculate how many grams of protein are in a 2.2 ounce serving:
- 2.2 ounce serving X 3 grams protein per ounce = 6.6 grams protein in a 2.2 oz serving
This tofu product is creditable in the CACFP because a 2.2 ounce portion provides 6.6 grams of protein, which is more than the required 5 grams.
Extra Firm Tofu
In the CACFP, yogurt must not have more than 23 grams of sugar per 6 ounces. Total sugars include both natural and added sugar. To determine if yogurt is creditable, use the Nutrition Facts label on the yogurt and the Sugar Limits in Yogurt chart found in the USDA worksheet Choose Yogurts That Are Lower in Sugar.
In the Yummy Yogurt example, use the following information from the Nutrition Facts label:
- Serving size = 8 ounces (227 grams)*
- Total Sugars = 9 grams
Compare the Serving size and Total Sugars amount from the Nutrition Facts label to the Sugar Limits in Yogurt chart. If the yogurt has that amount of sugar or less, the yogurt meets the sugar limit and is creditable.
The Yummy Yogurt is creditable because the 8 ounce (227 grams) serving has 9 grams of Total Sugar, which is less than 31 grams from the Sugar Limits in Yogurt chart.
In the CACFP, all breakfast cereals, including ready-to-eat, instant, and regular hot cereal, must contain no more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce. Total sugars include both natural and added sugar. To determine if cereal is creditable, use the Nutrition Facts label for the cereal and the Sugar Limits in Cereal chart found in the USDA worksheet Choose Breakfast Cereals That Are Lower in Sugar.
In the Toasty Oats Cereal example, use the following information from the Nutrition Facts label:
- Serving Size = 1 cup (43 grams)*
- Total Sugars = 8 grams
Find the Serving size in grams and the Total Sugars amount from the Nutrition Facts label. Use the Total Sugar amount from the column without milk and compare it to the Sugar Limits in Cereal chart. If the cereal has that amount of sugar or less, the cereal meets the sugar limit and is creditable.
The Toasty Oats Cereal meets the sugar limit. The 43 gram serving size has 8 grams of Total Sugars, which is less than the 9 grams, as indicated on the chart.
Toasty Oats Cereal
Determine the Ounce Equivalent for Grains
In the CACFP Meal Pattern, the required amounts of grains are listed in ounce equivalents (oz eq). Ounce equivalents tell you the amount of grain in a portion of food.
Locate the Serving size and weight of a product on the Nutrition Facts label. In the Flour Tortilla example:
- Serving size = 1 tortilla (31 grams)
Enter the product’s serving size (31 grams) in the Food Buying Guide and it tells you:
- 1 tortilla provides 1 oz eq grains
For more information, read ICN’s April Mealtime Memo.