Take Charge

Food for Thought: Five Tips for Reading Nutrition Labels

March 14, 2018


By Sara Bondell 

You walk into the grocery store armed with a cart and your list. But are you ready to take on the biggest challenge? Ensuring the food you buy is healthy for you and your family. 

We’re bombarded with news that processed foods are a big no-no, but you may be surprised to learn that you can fit them into a healthy diet—all you need is some guidance from the Nutrition Facts panel.

Here are five strategies from Moffitt Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Kate Allen to help you read food labels and make better choices in the grocery aisle:

  1. Acquaint yourself with the Daily Value — The daily value was developed to help consumers recognize how much of a nutrient is provided in one serving of the product compared to a standard daily level for healthy adults.  The daily value percentage is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet and is intended for general nutrition advice. Know that your caloric needs may be more or less than 2,000 calories. 
  1. Always pay attention to the Servings Per Container and Serving Size —  By law serving sizes are based on what people are actually eating, not what they should be eating.  Be mindful of the serving size. If you have dished out more than the suggested portion, factor it in to your daily total.
  1. Evaluate the sodium amount — Select products with no salt added or low sodium (less than140 mg per serving) to better meet the ideal limit — no more than 1500 mg per day for most adults and not exceeding 2300 mg per day.   
  1. Look for added sugar — Added sugar is any type of sugar that was not naturally occurring in the food. For example, corn syrup in soda, brown rice syrup in granola bars, honey in muffins, maple syrup in cereals.  Added sugar gram guidelines for women are 25g or less per day and for men 36g or less per day. Do not let added sugar exceed more than 10 percent of your calories for the day. 
  1. Choose more 100% whole grains — Whole grain examples are whole wheat, oats, rye, barley, corn, brown or wild rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, quinoa and sorghum. Find bread and cereal products with 3g or more of fiber per serving. Your specific fiber recommendations are dependent upon your age and gender, ranging from 21-38 grams per day.