Guest Post: Shop Smart by Using the 5 & 20 rule to read food labels

I am very pleased to host Sunithi Selvaraj aka Sue from Sue’s Nutrition Buzz. She’s a registered dietician and writes a killer blog that is fact filled and packed with great information about eating healthy and more. You definitely need to check her out and tell her I sent you.

Shop Smart by Using the 5 & 20 Rule to Read Food Labels by Sunithi Selvaraj

If you are like me, multitasking due to limited time and like to just grab and go when you “Go Grocery shopping”, you don’t have too much time to be poring over Food labels. If you want the best bang for your buck, you probably SHOULD read labels. I am going to share a simple rule and some tips which will have you zipping through food items and reading Food labels like a pro.

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First, look at serving size and servings per container: Calorie and Nutrient information is for one serving only. If you plan to eat the entire box/pack you have to multiply X number of servings to get the right value .CAUTION: Some products can contain up to 6 servings per box. So, if you plan on eating the whole box…make sure you do the math.

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Next step, 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. The %DV tells you what percentage of a particular nutrient you are getting from “that” product. For example, if you are getting 25% calcium from that product, you can gauge that you only need 75% from other foods to reach your goal of 100%.

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Apply the 5 and 20 rule to the nutrients – General rule of thumb: anything that is 5% and lower is a POOR source and anything that is 20% and above is a HIGH source of that nutrient. Anything in between 5 and 20 is a MEDIUM source.

If you want to get more nutrients such as calcium, fiber, vitamins etc…. in your diet, aim for 20% or above. On the flip side, nutrients that you want to get less in your diet like sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat aim for 5% or less. Needless to say, you should probably not be looking for fiber in dairy product or calcium in a meat product….so use the rule “In Context”.


Important TIP

Look out for terms like “partially hydrogenated”, “trans fat” and steer clear of them. Personally, if a product had too many ingredients, especially ones I don’t understand I usually pass it on.

suebw111Sunithi Selvaraj aka Sue , is a Registered Dietitian with a sweet tooth and a passion for eating healthy. Working as a nutritionist with Head Start in Washington DC.  She’s a blogger, tea addict, Health Nut, interactive workshop speaker…. Most important : wife and  mom of two who always experiments her crazy concoctions on her family. Loves revamping recipes and adding some nutrition perks to them.Blogs at

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  1. […] for your Buck,  you may want to check out my article at the Daily Dish. Title of my post is : Shop Smart by using the 5 & 20 Rule to Read Food Labels  Check out these pictures to get a sneak peek at what is in my […]