I am trying to become a more nutritionally conscious person. What would be an acceptable level of sodium and sugar when I am looking at food labels? -Ben
For sodium, your total daily amount should fall under 2400 mg. So to break that up into 3 meals would be 800 mg or less (600 mg per meal if you also eat 2-3 snacks). You could aim for this amount in a complete frozen dinner or entrée, or add up each item for your meal.
Additionally, a “low-sodium food” is any food with less than 140 mg per serving, such as a slice of bread or cup of milk. A “very low-sodium food” is any food with no more than 35 mg per serving, like fresh fruits, vegetables, dried beans or plain pasta and rice.
For sugar, your total daily amount should be 10% of total calories you consume. Because fruit is naturally almost all sugar, you have to check the ingredients to see if fruit-based products have other sugars added, rather than go by the sugar grams. The carbohydrates in milk are all natural sugar, about 13 grams per cup. So you can use this as a reference when looking at milk products.
Additionally, my guidance for starchy foods, such as cereal or crackers, has always been that sugar should be no more than 1/4 of the total carbohydrates per serving. For example, a cereal, with 45 grams of total Carbs, should have no more than 11 grams sugar. A good example would be a jar of pasta sauce with sugar of 8 grams or less per half cup. – Debbie J., MS, RD
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