Label Reading Lesson

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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 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

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