If you’re like me and like to get in and out of the supermarket in a short time, how do you browse through the numerous boxes and products on the aisles and make sure you’re getting what you want in terms of Nutrients? Food labels are meant to guide you through that process, but making sure you can figure out how that label works is important. Am going to give you a couple of tips which hopefully will make things little easier.
First look at Serving Size and servings per container (look at label above as a reference). Calorie and Nutrient information is for 1 serving only, so if the box/ product says 2 servings / container and you plan to eat the whole box you have to multiply X 2 to get the right values. Caution, some products can hold up to 6 servings / container so if you plan on eating the whole box, do the math.
Next, after you glance at the calories and fat content, look at the % DV (Daily Value) which is the amount of a nutrient in one serving compared to the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) based on a 2000 calorie diet. In simple terms what the % DV tells you is the percent of a particular nutrient you’re getting from that product. For example if you’re getting 45% of calcium as in the label below, you can gauge that you only have to get another 55% calcium from other foods through the day, to reach your goal of 100%.
Then you apply the ‘5 and 20′ rule to the nutrients. General rule of thumb- anything that’s 5 % and below is a poor source of that nutrient, anything that’s 20 % and above is a high source and anything in between is a medium source.
Nutrients that you want get a lot of in your diet like calcium, fiber, maybe protein aim for 20 % or above. Nutrients that you want to get less of in your diet like Saturated fat, Sodium , maybe Carbs( if you’re on a low carb diet) aim for 5% or below or the numbers in between 5 and 20. I don’t have to say that you probably should not be looking for fiber in a Dairy product or Calcium in a cereal box (unless fortified) etc, so use the rule “in context “of the nutrient – if that makes sense. So next time you’re at the grocery store use the 5 and 20 rule to guide you effortlessly down the aisles and watch as healthy food products magically appear in your cart. Just a note, Also look out for words like “partially hydrogenated“, “trans fat“and steer clear of products that have them. Personally, if a product has too many ingredients, especially ones that I don’t understand I usually pass on it. Happy Grocery shopping – and take time to read the labels.