Here are three easy tips for consumers to use to read a label and really make a difference every time they shop.
Label Reading Made Simple
I talk to people one on one many times per week and have learned to really keep it simple and hit the high points...that keeps people’s attention and insures they walk away with something they remember.
That being said, I only tell them 3 things about a nutrition facts panel:
1) If nothing else, look at the sodium. The lower the sodium, the closer to nature; the closer to nature, the more likely it is to be healthy “overall.” I tell them to “look to the right at the % number and seek out 5% or less.”
2) I tell them the only % number that they want to be HIGH is fiber...as close to 20% as possible. (I mention the “increments of 5” rule: 5% = low, 10% = moderate, 15% = significant, 20% = high....and that of all the things with percents listed to right, the goal is 5% or less and fiber is exception, striving for closer to 20%).
3) Ignore the grams of sugar. I point out there is no %DV because there is no RDI for grams of total sugars....sice labels # included both naturally occurring and ADDED, and only added sugars matter.
But that doesn’t mean ignore sugar - I tell them to look at the ingredients list and reconsider any item with a form of sugar within first 3 ingredients and/or any item with more than 1 form of added sugar.
(I usually go through a few labels and ask them to identify added sugars, so I can emphasize all it’s forms, including the”mythically healthy” honey, raw sugar and agave syrup).
Upon follow up, they are always able to tell me about notable shifts in eating habits based on just these few tidbits of info.
Usually they launch into a spiel about the atrocious amounts of sodium and added sugar that they never realized were in everything and how they now find themselves eating more fruits and vegetables. Imagine that!
Lisa Raum, R.D., EMT-B
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.