How To: Chinese Nutritional Labels

It can be hard to eat healthy when you can't even read the Chinese label, but Rae Dehal has some advice to get you through.

I think the thing I most struggled with when I first moved to China was trying to eat healthily. It wasn’t just I’d go get noodle lady everyday or that food in the cafeteria was very oily- but also that I couldn’t track what I was eating and figure out what I was missing from my diet. Today, I rely on counting my macros to make sure that my diet is balanced and I’m getting appropriate portions of all the nutrients I need. But Chinese nutritional labels are kind of confusing: for one, they are usually in kilojoules and, if you’re lazy (guilty) or your Chinese isn’t that good, looking up what the characters mean can be a pain. So here’s a quick and easy guide to your rescue!


蛋白质              dàn bái zhì                    protein

碳水化合物      tàn shuǐ huà hé wù        carbohydrate

饱和脂肪         bǎo hé zhī fáng              saturated fat

反式脂肪        fǎn shì zhī fáng               trans fat

糖                  táng                                 sugars

钠                 nà                                     sodium


Chinese food labels are very basic and don’t include things like vitamins or iron content. The measurements are always in grams so once you know what’s what, you can log everything as you usually would in MyFitnessPal or food journal. But now for the harder part- converting kilojoules to calories.

1 calorie is 4 kilojoules so to convert, divide by four. For example, let’s say sandwich from Family Mart is 500 kilojoules of energy. 500 divided by 4 gives you 125 calories. If you don’t want to do the math every time, and you’d rather switch over to using kJ, here’s a handy calorie guide to make things a bit easier.


10,000 kJ = 2400 calories (this is the typical intake of most teenagers and young adults)

7500 kJ = 1800 calories

7000 kJ= 1650 calories

6000 kJ = 1500 calories


Word of Caution: It’s not recommended for anyone to be eating less than about 1500-1400 calories a day unless you’ve decided to drop out of school and become a professional bikini model. I don’t know where everyone always pulls that 1200 calorie number out from.

This article was written by Rae Dehal. Please send an email to to get in touch.
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