Meghan Tiernan (MS, RD, LDN) is a registered dietitian with a passion for helping others achieve a healthy lifestyle. She strives to help others learn the most nutritious way to eat, in order to achieve good health. Meghan enjoys cooking and running and believes that with just some basic knowledge, you can gain the confidence in yourself to know that you can eat well.

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Dietitian Consult

by Meghan Tiernan, MS, RD, LDN

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I'm guessing most of you are getting accustomed to reading a food label before you eat something, especially if you're counting calories. How many of you know how to read a food label? How many of you find it confusing?

nutrition label

While it can be a tricky thing to decipher, it's a great tool to use to stay on track. To me, the hardest part I can see is making sure you're looking at serving size and servings per container on a label. These two values can be extremely helpful in keeping you informed. Many "small" packages contain more than one serving, and while they may be very easy to eat in one serving, you could be consuming double to triple the calories you thought you were.

There was an article published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics last month that looked at modifying the way a food label is presented in foods such as these. They surveyed thousands of people and had them use current nutrition labels that listed 2 servings per container with a single column, listing 2 servings per container with a dual column (one with one serving and one for the whole package) or a single column with the facts for the entire package. They found that people liked having more information through the dual columns or the nutrition facts for the entire package (1 serving per container).

You can already find dual labels on 20 ounce soda bottles. It lists the facts for a single serving (8 ounces) as well as the entire 20 ounce bottle. While it may seem like a simple thing to do, I like the direction they're attempting to take. I personally feel like the less guess work that people have to do, the more likely a person is to make a healthier choice.

What are your thoughts on this?

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@ 4:57pm ET on March 5, 2013
My label wish list is:

Change uncooked foods to reflect nutrition information as cooked. Nobody eats raw spaghetti or raw rice.

Change percent daily values from 2,000 calories a day to 1,500 calories a day, or include both.

Include glycemic index

I can't tell you how many times I thought the bottle of iced tea or cup of cereal was a serving only to find out the iced tea was 2 servings or the cereal was really 2/3 cup. This is very misleading and should be more clear especially for people with diabetes, type 1 or type 2.

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