When you’re trying to find out if a food is healthy, you might start by reading the ingredients lists. Valuable information? Absolutely. Nothing beats knowing exactly what’s in your food. But sometimes there just isn’t time when you shop for groceries—especially when you’re making a big trip. If you choose to focus on just one or two aspects of the nutrition panel, it’s good to know how much sugar is too much and how much fiber is enough.
“I do this ‘rule of five.'” If a food or drink has less than five grams of sugar per serving and more than five grams of fiber per serving, it’s a good indicator that it’s a healthy pick,” says Rachel Swanson, RD. “It’s not perfect and there are exceptions, but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb.” If you’re wondering how much sugar is too much for a food or drink to be a healthy choice, the takeaway tip is to keep it under five grams per serving.
Here’s how a dietitian gets out of Whole Foods spending less than $30:
Swanson also calls out a “5:1 rule.” “This is another trick I teach clients that basically is dividing the amount of carbs by the amount of fiber as they are both listed on the label,” she says. “For example, sprouted grain bread has 15 grams of carbs and three grams of fiber per serving, so it would make the cut as being considered ‘healthy.'”
Of course, even with these guidelines, it’s worth pointing out that there are other reasons for adding a food or drink to your grocery basket other than if it measures up in these ways. Maybe it’s not considered “healthy” by any measurement but it looks good and you want it—that’s a valid enough reason to buy it. But if you are trying to determine whether something has nutrient value or not, these hacks can help.
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