Healthy Lifestyle Advice by John Reed, MD with Augusta Health Primary Care, Fishersville

Senior adult Asian female is shopping at a grocery store

Date: May 11, 2023
Categories: Health Focused

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), understanding the Nutrition Facts Label on food items can help you make healthier choices. The label breaks down the amount of calories, carbs, fat, fiber, protein, and vitamins per serving, and lists all the ingredients.

As a board-certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician, Dr. John Reed loves to help his patients treat and reverse chronic diseases, lose weight, and get off their medications with lifestyle changes. See below for some pointers from Dr. Reed on how to understand better and use the Nutrition Facts Label.

Food Labels: How do we read them?

  • To be perfectly honest, IT IS BEST TO BUY FOODS WITHOUT LABELS, like celery, kale, potatoes, apples, blueberries, and other fruits and vegetables.
  • The next best are those foods with only a single unprocessed ingredient, such as black beans, brown rice, turmeric spice, black pepper, and similar items.
  • If you must buy processed food in a package, then try to get minimally processed food with simple ingredients you recognize that come from whole plants.
  • Look at the ingredients list first; is it short and full of recognizable plant foods (get that one)? Or is it long and full of chemicals, sugars, oils, and dyes (avoid that)?
  • Avoid foods with more than a few grams of added sugars.
  • If you are getting bread or other food with processed flour (from whatever grain or plant), then try to get one without sugar and with just a few simple ingredients and where the carbohydrate to fiber ratio is 5:1 or lower (so 20g carbs to 0.5g fiber is bad while 20g carbs to 5g fiber is good)
  • Your sodium intake for a day should ideally be under 2000mg, so if a serving of food has over about 700mg of sodium in a serving, avoid that one.
  • If the nutrition facts label has any saturated fat or cholesterol, think twice about eating that food; it is not heart-healthy (chicken and seafood are NOT good for your heart).

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If you would like an appointment with Dr. Reed, please ask your primary care provider for a Lifestyle Medicine referral.