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5 Tips for Understanding and Using Nutrition Labels

May 7, 2024
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Older woman in a grocery store reading a nutrition label.

Nutrition labels can help you make smart food choices. By using these labels, you can focus on foods that can help keep you healthy.

Be mindful of the serving size.

The nutrition facts found on labels measure nutrients per serving, so keep an eye on serving size. For example, if the salad dressing you are using says a two tablespoon serving is 130 calories and you use more than one serving, you will need to be mindful of those additional calories, sodium and fats.

Good carbs can fuel your body.

It’s important to be mindful of what kinds of carbs your food contains. There are three kinds of carbs: fiber, starch, and sugar. Nutrition experts recommend that people focus on nutrient-dense carbs that are rich in fiber, moderate in starch, and low in added sugars. Good examples are whole grain breads, sweet potatoes, and bananas. Refer to the Diabetes Plate Method for guidance.

Limit saturated fat, sodium, added sugars and cholesterol. Avoid trans-fat.

Limiting saturated fat, sodium and added sugars promotes heart health. It can also help with blood pressure, inflammation, and cholesterol levels. You should also avoid trans-fat.

Did you know?

Eat more nutrients like fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamins.

Diets that are higher in nutrients have many benefits. Aim for a percent daily value (% DV) of 20% for nutrients like fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamins.

Here are some of the benefits for each:

Be aware of fat and sodium in your protein sources.

Your body needs protein to help repair cells and make new ones. It’s also important to consume protein to prevent the loss of lean muscle mass that occurs naturally as you age. The National Academy of Medicine recommends consuming just over 7 grams for every 20 pounds of body weight. This means a 150-pound person should consume about 53 grams of protein each day. A lot of foods that are high in protein contain fats and sodium. Choose lean meats, like skinless white-meat chicken or turkey, or plant-based protein like lentils, beans, and soy.

MyPlate, a mobile app from the USDA, can help you find healthy foods within your budget. Click here to see some recommended foods to consume and some foods to avoids.

All the above tips are general guidance. Your individual nutrition needs vary based on your health. You should consult your doctor or healthcare provider on your diet. A CCA Community Health Worker can also help you with finding the foods that meet your provider’s recommendations.

Did you know?
The Percent Daily Value (% DV) is the percentage that a nutrient in a serving of a food contributes to a total daily diet, based on a diet of 2,000 calories. For example, if you eat one serving of yogurt that has a % DV of 7% carbohydrates, that means you have eaten 7% of your carbs for the day if you eat 2000 calories. You can use this number to determine if a serving of food is high or low in a particular nutrient.

The FDA’s general guide is that 5% DV or less of a nutrient per serving is considered low, while 20% DV or more of a nutrient per serving is considered high.

Check out these other blog posts for more nutrition information:

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