The month of March is National Nutrition Month! We asked our Nutritionist, Tara Bledsoe, to share with us her best tips and practices for understanding Nutrition Facts labels. Here is what she shared with us:

In recent years, the Nutrition Facts label was overhauled to make the information provided clearer and up to date. Using the Nutrition Facts label is a great way to help you make healthier choices when purchasing processed and packaged foods, if you know how to use it!

Here are some tips on what to look for: 

At the top of the Nutrition Facts label, you will find the servings per container and the serving size. It is important to understand that the number of calories and nutrients listed on the label are for the serving size listed. Therefore, if you eat a larger serving, then the amount of calories and nutrients you take in will be greater than what is listed on the label. Sometimes what may seem like a single serving container can have 2 or more servings! 

Next, the calories per serving are listed in bold type, followed by important nutrient information. A percent daily value (%DV) is given for all the nutrients, which tells you how much a single serving of that food contributes to the total recommended daily value (DV) of that nutrient.  A food is low in a nutrient if the %DV is 5% or less and high in that nutrient if the %DV is 20% or more. A quick tip for selecting foods to create a healthy eating pattern is to eat more foods higher in fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium and lower in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. 

Changes to the Nutrition Facts label included updating many nutrient DVs based on recommendations from new scientific evidence. Two changes included decreasing sodium’s DV to 2300 mg/day and increasing potassium’s DV to 4700 mg/day. Reducing sodium intake and increasing potassium intake helps to decrease risk for hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.  

Products with added sugar must now report the amount and %DV on the Nutrition Facts label. A new daily value was set for added sugars, limiting them to no more than 50 g per day. This value is much higher than the recommended limit set by the American Heart Association, which advises no more than 36 g/day for men and 25 g/day for women. Look for products low in added sugars, as calories from added sugars can really add up throughout the day.