What’s in a Label?

Cracking the (nutrition) code

The latest nutrition labels are overflowing with information. Don’t get lost in the details—home in on these highlights

Have you stood in the grocery store staring completely confused at a nutrition label? You’re not alone. “There’s a lot of information, and you really have to be a detective to determine how healthy the product is,” says Andrea Giancoli, a registered dietitian and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

So what does that fine print mean—and why should it matter to you? Our expert breaks it down.

  1. Size up the serving size. “Get a handle on how big a serving is, servings per package and calories per serving,” Giancoli says. “People often eat more than one serving at a time.”

  2. Being first matters. The first ingredient listed is the main ingredient in the product. If it’s sugar, steer clear.

  3. All fats are not created equal. Look beyond total fat grams and pay attention to the kinds of fat the food contains. Translation: Unsaturated fats are heart-healthy; trans fats are not.

  4. Perfect your percentages. “Percent daily value” is the percentage of your recommended daily intake of the nutrient the food contains. “If an item has 60 percent of your daily saturated fat or sodium allowance, watch your intake closely for the remainder of the day—or skip it all together,” Giancoli suggests. 

 

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