Get the Facts: Demystifying Nutrition Panels

fruits and vegetables

nutritional food broken into various grouping Do you sometimes find yourself standing in the middle of the grocery aisle, squinting at a label, wondering how in the world you’re supposed to know if 800mg of sodium is good or bad? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one trying to decipher information on that mystifying nutrition label. But never fear, we’ve got five label reading tips to make your grocery shopping a less puzzling endeavor. Keep these handy and shop with confidence!

  1. Always start at the top and check the serving size. The calorie and nutrient information listed below the serving size will be for that one serving, not the entire box! And note too that our “biggie-sized” culture has skewed our sense of what a reasonable serving is, so many of us over do it.
  1. Percentage Daily Value (%DV) is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. These values can serve as a quick and helpful guide. 5% or less is considered low. Keep the following on the low end: total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. 20% or more is considered high. Keep the following high: vitamins, minerals and fiber
  1. nutritional panelTotal carbohydrate grams include the grams of sugar. Choose whole grain breads, pasta and cereals as well as fresh fruits and vegetables as preferred carbohydrate sources. Limit simple carbohydrates, which are found in: candy, soda, syrup and table sugar.
  1. Note that Percentage Daily Value is not included for protein because the majority of US citizens get adequate protein. When choosing protein, limit red (beef and pork) and processed meats (hot dogs, bacon, salami, ham, bologna). Replace with lean meats (skinless poultry and fish), low fat dairy, beans and nuts.
  1. Be sure to read the ingredient list. The ingredients listed first/highest on the list are those that are present in larger quantities. However, beware: sugar and sodium can be hidden under other names. Avoid foods that have partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils listed (trans fats).

If you would like to receive nutritional counseling from one of our health professional, click here.

By Erin Brasch, MS, RD, LD, Clinical Dietitian at the Roper St. Francis Diabetes Treatment Center