Understanding Food & Nutrition Labels

The labels you see on the foods you buy are meant to help you make more informed choices about what you put on your table and into your body. But all the names, numbers, and ingredients you find on food and nutrition labels can often lead to more confusion than understanding.

So how do you take what you see and turn it into what you know? With this handy guide, of course! Here are some simple definitions and descriptions to help you become a nutrition label sage and savvier food consumer.

Food Labels

Food labels tell us more about the food we’re buying and eating. These are some of the key terms you’ll read on food labels and what they really mean.

  1. Gluten-free

Gluten-free products are those that contain no gluten and are considered safe to consume by those with gluten intolerances or those who want to avoid it.

  1. Organic

To earn the organic label, foods and products must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients. The remaining ingredients must be on the national approved list provided by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Organic products can’t be made using ingredients produced with antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation.

  1. Vegan

Vegan products are those that do not contain any animal ingredients (meat, eggs, dairy products) or any ingredient derived from animals.

  1. Non-GMO

For a product to have the Non-GMO label, the crops used to create the product cannot have been modified in a lab to make them resistant to herbicides and/or produce an insecticide. Simply put, they are foods that haven’t been genetically modified in any way.

  1. Free-range

A free-range label means that the animals must be allowed to move freely over a large area of open land. These animals shouldn’t be locked away or contained.

  1. Grass-fed

Meat labeled grass-fed means the animal must have been primarily raised on ranges and eaten only grasses and forages for the length of its life, rather than in a feedlot. It does not mean the animal wasn’t contained unless it also has the “free-range” label.

  1. Kosher

For a product to be considered Kosher, it must conform to the Jewish religious dietary law. Any animal species must be slaughtered using a method in which the animal is rendered unconscious. Death then occurs almost instantly and the animal doesn’t suffer during the slaughter. This method is called “Shochet.”

  1. All-natural or 100% natural ingredients

This label can deceive people. While foods can have an all-natural, or 100% natural ingredients label, they can still contain growth hormones, antibiotics or other harmful chemicals.

Nutrition Labels

Nutrition labels let us know about the dietary impact of the foods we’re consuming. Here are some of the terms you’ll find on your typical label and how to interpret them.

  1. Serving Information

When you first look at the Nutrition Facts label, find the total number of servings (shown as servings per container) and the serving size. Serving sizes are first provided in familiar units that people typically eat at one time, such as cups, ounces or pieces. You are then given the specific metric amount (e.g., the number of grams (g)). It’s important to note that all the nutrient amounts shown on the label (calories included) are related to a single serving size.

  1. Calories

Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of the food in the package you’re reading. For example, if there are 100 calories in one serving of a drink, you get 100 units of energy from that serving. If you drink the whole bottle containing 4 servings, you’d be consuming 400 calories. The general guideline for most adults is 2,000 calories per day. Depending on your age, sex, height, weight, and activity level, you may need more or less calories.

  1. Nutrients

The label’s nutrient section shows you the nutrients you’ll be getting by consuming that product. You can use the label to seek out foods containing more of the nutrients you want (vitamins and minerals) and less of those you may want to limit (saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars).

  1. The Percent Daily Value (DV)

The % Daily Value (DV) is the percentage of the daily value of each nutrient your body needs that a serving of that food will provide. Daily Values are average levels of nutrients based on a person who eats 2,000 calories a day. It also helps you determine if a serving is high or low in a nutrient. (5% DV or less of a nutrient per serving is considered low, while 20% DV or more is considered high).

Five Ingredients to Watch Out For

The ingredient list must contain every single ingredient present in your food product, in order of greatest to least. Here are 5 ingredients to watch out for when making food choices.

  1. Hydrogenated Oils

Partially hydrogenated oil (or trans fats) have now been outlawed in the US. However, many manufacturers are turning to fully hydrogenated oils instead. These oils are a source of saturated fat and can impact cholesterol levels and inflammation in the body. These types of fat are largely found in highly processed foods, foods that should be limited due to their low nutritional value.

  1. Sodium Benzoate

Sodium benzoate is a preservative found in many processed foods. It’s been shown to increase inflammation, obesity, oxidative stress, and allergic reactions. It also likely becomes carcinogenic when combined with higher levels of vitamin C.

  1. High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup contributes to inflammation, increased cholesterol and triglycerides, and fatty liver. It also increases appetite and obesity.

  1. Other Added Sugars and Refined Flours

In excess, added sugars contribute to inflammation, high blood pressure, weight gain, and fatty liver. Added sugars in any form are bad if consumed in excess. This includes sugars like honey and unrefined cane sugar or coconut sugar, which some people believe are less harmful. Diets high in refined grain products, like white bread, pasta, cracker, and baked goods, have been linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

  1. Carrageenan

Carrageenan is a food additive used to help with thickening and emulsifying foods. It has been linked to IBS, inflammation, colon cancer, and glucose intolerance. Foods that are labeled organic can no longer contain carrageenan. But other foods can.

Making more informed choices about the food you eat is one of the best things you can do for your long-term health and reading and understanding food labels is a great way to do it. So, use the information you find there to your advantage and start eating and living healthier today. To learn more about healthy eating schedule an appointment with one of our dietitians.

Find a Provider Near You.

We offer more ways to care for you, your family and our community. Whether you need routine care or treatment for an injury or chronic condition, our providers are here for you.

Better Balance: Fall Prevention for Seniors

Have you experienced falls or a loss of balance within the last year? Did you know that more than one out of four seniors fall each year?1

Less than half tell their doctor.2 Get educated on what you can do to prevent falls!

Common Causes of Falls:

People can take a fall for many reasons but some of the most common are:

  1. Weakness in the lower body (i.e. hips, legs, ankles, feet)
  2. Poor lighting at home
  3. Rugs

What can I do to prevent myself from falling?

  1. Regular strengthening and balance exercises.
  2. Use night lights or ensure there is good lighting in your home so you can get to and from the bathroom.
  3. Remove rugs from frequently used pathways in the home as they are a common tripping hazard.

There are many exercises to help you build strength and endurance to help prevent falling. One of the most common helpful exercises supports transitioning from sitting to standing.

Sitting to Standing:

  • Scoot to the front of the chair, feet underneath you, and stand up. Sit back down and repeat!
  • Ensure the chair is not going to slip out behind you
  • Perform 10 sit to stands 2-3 times per day.*
  • Try not to use your hands if your balance is good enough for extra strengthening.

*Please consult your physician before performing any exercises to ensure they are appropriate for you.

Ready to improve your balance?

Schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapy specialists today.


  1. Bergen G, Stevens MR, Burns ER. Falls and Fall Injuries Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:993–998. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6537a2
  2. Stevens JA, Ballesteros MF, Mack KA, Rudd RA, DeCaro E, Adler G. Gender differences in seeking care for falls in the aged Medicare Population. Am J Prev Med 2012;43:59–62.

Michigan Couple Gets Back to Life Thanks to Trinity Health Spine Program

Native Michiganders and married couple Dori and Dave Aldridge have always been healthy, but both began suffering from back issues over the last couple years.

In 2020, Dori’s pain got so bad she couldn’t get out of bed without assistance.

Dave would help Dori into a chair that was more comfortable for her and assist her around the house when needed.

Dori met with her primary care provider, who then connected her with Todd Francis, MD, a Trinity Health IHA Medical Group neurosurgeon. “I took the MRI to my appointment with Dr. Francis, he looked at it and saw exactly what it was,” Dori said.

Dori was suffering from a herniated disc. Surgery was scheduled and six weeks later, her pain was almost instantly gone.

“That morning, I had to help (Dori) get to the car and then into the hospital,” Dave said. “After her surgery I went to help her out and she said, ‘no stand back.’ And she started doing everything on her own again.”

Since her surgery, Dori has had no complications, and she attributes her improvement to Dr. Francis. “Dr. Francis was so kind, thorough and explained everything to me clearly,” Dori said.

Fast forward about a year later to November 2021. Dave’s back began giving him fits to the point where he couldn’t get comfortable in bed and resorted to the recliner. After Dori’s positive experience with Dr. Francis, she knew exactly who Dave should consult.

Dr. Francis met with Dave and discovered he was suffering from stenosis, an arthritic disease. Dr. Francis performed a transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF), a minimally invasive surgery, and Dave’s pain was gone within a few days.

“It was the 24th of November 2021, the day before Thanksgiving,” Dave recalled. “Dr. Francis did my surgery and I got out on Thanksgiving Day and began walking again. I was up to walking five miles a day and it was fantastic.”
The Aldridge’s experience with Dr. Francis was so good that they have already referred multiple friends and family members to him.

“I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Francis and his whole staff,” said Dave. “Our whole experience was just fantastic. The professionalism and kindness of Dr. Francis when he took us in — it was just a pleasant experience.” “And he takes good care of you afterwards, too, with his follow ups,” Dori said. “It was all handled very professionally.”

Pictured: Todd Francis, MD, PhD, Board Certified Neurological Surgeon

Get Back to Living Pain Free.

If you or a loved one have been experiencing back pain, don’t wait. Take our free back pain assessment, learn more about available treatments or schedule an appointment with one of our specialists today.

Tips to Keep Your Joints Healthy & Free from Pain this Winter

Winter months offer tons of leisure activities to enjoy as well as everyday chores such as shoveling. Whether you are preparing for yard work or an afternoon of fun, keep in mind a few helpful tips from the Trinity Health Orthopedics team to help keep your joints healthy and free from pain.


Excessive bending, lifting, and twisting can strain your back and put you at risk for injuries like muscle strains, joint subluxations, and disc herniations. Remember to:

  • Warm up first,
  • Bend with your knees and hips, not your back.
  • Engage your abs.

Keep Moving or Exercising

Cold weather and less daylight make it tempting to snuggle up on the couch. But it is still important to keep moving your body. One of the biggest risk factors for joint injury is remaining inactive. Appropriate and safe exercise can help keep your muscles strong and your joints healthy. Exercising can even give your immune system a boost.

Stay Hydrated and Take Breaks as Needed

The cold dry air tends to dehydrate our bodies. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Use Caution

Black ice, wet snow, salt and sand can make surfaces more slippery during the fall and winter months. Make sure to use caution when walking around town. Give yourself extra time to get places, avoid the temptation of running or rushing, wear appropriate footwear, and always use handrails when going up or down stairs to help you avoid an accidental trip and fall.

Make Sure you Have the Proper Tools or Equipment for Your Activity

Getting the last of the leaves or preparing to shovel the driveway? Make sure you have the tools or equipment that best fits you. Plastic or metal options and something light weight is a smart choice. Keep in mind ergonomics.

If you do feel you have injured your back or joints and have been dealing with nagging pain, take the next step to enjoy activities with less pain.

Learn More About our Orthopedic Program and Schedule a Consultation Today.

Colleagues Promote Movember, Compete for Best Stache

In honor of Movember, the national movement to recognize and promote men’s health in the month of November, we invited our colleagues to engage in some healthy competition. And boy did it get hairy! Check out all of the submissions and vote for your favorite facial hair here. And remember, men’s health issues are no joke. Please encourage the men in your life to get a primary care physician if they don’t have one and to attend their annual wellness visits.

Jacob (Jhakoby) K. Hecksel
Pharmacy Technician
Trinity Health Grand Rapids

Jordan Ginebaugh
Medical First Responder
Trinity Health Muskegon ProMed

Tim Andrews
ER Lead Tech II 
Chelsea Hospital

Mike Giddings
Trinity Health Muskegon

Miles Kamaloski
Medical Technologist
Trinity Health Grand Rapids

David Harangozo
Case Manager
Trinity Health Grand Rapids

Dan Stewart
Respiratory Therapy
Trinity Health Muskegon

Lucas Vermaire
Phone Triage RN – Diabetes and Endocrine Center
Trinity Health Medical Group

Rafael Ohli
Trinity Health Grand Rapids

Evan Schmidt
Lab Assistant
Trinity Health Muskegon

Pat Milostan
Director of Emergency Department
Trinity Health Livonia 

Dr. Brent Gustafson
Family Medicine Specialist
Trinity Health Grand Rapids

Richard Bame
Lab Tech
Trinity Health Ann Arbor

Jarrett Leunk
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists
Anesthesia Services

Pumpkin Pudding

Serves 6


  • 2 – 3.4 ounce packages instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 – 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice mix, plus more for garnish
  • Whipped topping, for garnish


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together pudding mix, pumpkin, milk, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice mix according to package directions. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes to let it thicken.
  2. Spoon mixture into 6 small cups. Refrigerate until well chilled and pudding is set (about 1 hour).
  3. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with more pumpkin pie spice mix.

Recipe & Image Source: Delish.com – Pumpkin Pudding Recipe

Pumpkin Turkey Chili

Serves 4


  • 2 tablespoons, olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium jalapenos, seeded and diced (smaller pieces than your onion/pepper)
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes (use the liquid too!)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cans (15 ounces) kidney beans, drained


  1. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.
  2. Once oil is warmed, add your onion, bell pepper, and jalapenos. Sauté until all vegetables are tender and onions are starting to turn translucent (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the ground turkey and cook until it is browned.
  5. Add tomatoes, pumpkin, water, spices, and salt and stir.
  6. Add beans and reduce heat to medium low.
  7. Simmer for 20-30 minutes and stir occasionally. If chili becomes too thick, add more water or part of another can of diced tomatoes.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

Ready to take the next step?

Our Lifestyle Medicine team is here to support you on your journey to better health. Connect with one of our Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Specialists today.

Trinity Health St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Completes 50th Convergent Procedure to Treat Afib

Pictured above are: Sue Keaton, Julie Opalinski, Jihn Han, MD, Robert Lyons, MD and Angela Marison.

Trinity Health St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor recently completed its 50th Convergent procedure to treat atrial fibrillation (afib). Convergent is a procedure that combines surgery and catheter-based ablation to treat patients with persistent or paroxysmal afib. The procedure, performed by electrophysiologists and cardiovascular surgeons, utilizes radiofrequency to block irregular electrical signals by producing lesions, or scar tissue, on the heart.

Convergence is a relatively new treatment option for afib and performed only in organizations with the most advanced cardiovascular services. The Trinity Health St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor team celebrates this milestone number as the most experienced team in the state of Michigan. The procedure is ideal for patients with persistent or paroxysmal afib who have not had success with other afib treatments. As a collaborative treatment, Convergent provides a minimally-invasive approach without cardiopulmonary bypass. This means a shorter hospital stay, minimal discomfort and faster recovery.

Afib is the most common heart arrhythmia disorder, with 2.3 million people living with Afib in the United States. It is caused by rapid electrical signals in the upper chambers of the heart that can disrupt blood flow, causing an irregular rhythm, and can lead to stroke.  

To learn more about Trinity Health’s afib program, click here.

Trinity Health Michigan Promotes Skin Safety Among Concertgoers

It’s been another amazing summer concert season at the historic Pine Knob Music Theatre.  With little more than a month remaining on the summer schedule, it’s important that concertgoers continue to take precautions to protect their skin from the harmful effects of the sun.

As the exclusive health care partner of Pine Knob Music Theatre, Trinity Health Michigan wants to help keep you and your loved ones safe.  David McNaughton, MD, a family medicine physician at Trinity Health Primary Care in Clarkston, offers these safety skin tips for those looking to spend extended time out in the sun.

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water when you’re out in the sun and heat. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can dehydrate you so stick to water or Gatorade. Even pop or other soft drinks can increase dehydration. Aim to drink 16 ounces of water every 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Prioritize skincare. Use a water-resistant sunscreen that has an SPF 30 or above. Apply to all exposed skin before you go outside. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. Spray on sunscreen is easy to use but creams may last longer.
  • Wear protective clothing. Consider wearing a hat that covers your face and protective clothing for your body, such as long sleeves. This is even more effective than sunscreen.
David McNaughton, MD
  • Avoid overexposure. Limit direct sunlight by seeking shade when possible.
  • Watch out for cloudy skies. Even when it’s cloudy and the weather is hazy, your skin can be exposed to strong UV rays.  UV light can pass through clouds even when visible light doesn’t.

  • When to get help. Seek medical help onsite right away if you experience any heat-related symptoms, such as excessive sweating, facial flushing, muscle cramps or if you are feeling weak, dizzy, or confused.

If you have questions about skin conditions or an area of skin changing in color, size, or shape, reach out to your primary care provider for a skin check.

For more information about Trinity Health Michigan or to find a doctor near you, visit trinityhealthmichigan.org.

It’s Back-to-School Immunization Time

Are your kids up to date on their back-to-school shots?

Trinity Health knows that vaccinations are a big part of your back-to-school preparation. Do you know which shots your child’s school requires?

Check out this handy vaccination checklist for some commonly required shots:


  • Polio
  • Chickenpox
  • Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis
  • Measles, mumps and rubella
  • Flu

Elementary School:

  • Flu

Middle School:

  • Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis
  • Flu
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Human papillomavirus

High School:

  • Meningococcal disease
  • Flu
  • Serogroup B meningococcal infection

And don’t forget to check if COVID-19 vaccines are required for your child’s school. Don’t wait any longer, schedule your child’s immunization appointment near you.

Need to find a doctor?

Our high-quality primary care doctors are ready to care for you. Schedule an appointment with one today.

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