Reading & Understanding Food Labels - A Nutrition Discussion with Julia Ridenour, RD - Bronson Healthcare

Published on May 21, 2015

Reading & Understanding Food Labels - A Nutrition Discussion with Julia Ridenour, RD

Read food labels with ease by using these 4 simple steps. #healthyliving

Learning how to read and understand food labels can be a daunting task but it can help you make healthier choices.

Here are some tips offered by Julia Ridenour, registered dietitian with Bronson Outpatient Nutrition Services, for getting the most out of the information on the nutrition facts label:

What changes are being made to food labels?

  • Added sugar will be a subheading under sugar to note what is being added along with what naturally occurs in the product.
  • Calories will be in bold, large print.
  • Serving info will be larger print and more prominently displayed.
  • Servings will also be based on a common serving size and not a size that makes the info look better.
    • For example, a 20 ounce bottle of chocolate milk will be a single serving versus two, one cup servings per container.
  • Vitamin A and C will be removed; Vitamin D and potassium will be added.
    • Research shows that most Americans get enough of A and C, but not enough D and potassium.

What should I pay most attention to on a food label?

  • Calories
    • You need to know your recommended calorie intake and decide how much of this product you can consume.
  • Sodium
    • This nutrient is especially of a concern if you are on a low sodium diet.
  • % Daily Value
    • This figure is a guide to the nutrients in one serving of food. It is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. You need to know your personal calorie level and adjust that percent to your calorie recommendation.
  • Total carbohydrates
    • This is especially important if someone is diabetic.
  • Total fat and saturated fat
    • This is especially important if someone is on a cardiac diet.

What are some additives that I should I look out for?

  • You need to keep you and your family’s specific health in mind when reading labels. This is especially important if someone has a food allergy, special diet concerns and personal health goals. You should create a list of ingredients that you are trying to avoid for you to reference and compare it to what is listed on the label. While this can be tedious work, once it is created it can save you from a possible health scare.

Can I trust product endorsements by health organizations?

  • While most endorsements are reliable that shouldn’t be used as the base of your purchase decision. You really need to examine the nutrition labels to find the product that is right for you. For example, products can be labeled with the amount of whole grains per serving but that only tells a consumer how much of the product weight comes from the grain. This does not mean how much dietary fiber it contains.

At Bronson Outpatient Nutrition Services, we offer a variety of nutrition services for nearly every need. See one of our registered dietitians and we'll create a nutrition plan tailored just for you. Our team provides a broad range of nutrition services for everyone from infants to older adults. Call (269) 341-6860 to schedule an appointment.

For additional information and updates on this topic, visit fda.gov.


Bronson Outpatient Nutrition Services is located at 601 John St., Suite W-308, in Kalamazoo, Mich. There are additional locations in Battle Creek, Oshtemo, Paw Paw, Portage and Vicksburg. In South Haven, Bronson Wellness Center offers healthy eating programs, nutrition classes and weight management assistance. Visit bronsonhealth.com/diethelp for more information.

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