BERLIN, Md. (AP) — Walking through aisles of the Food Lion grocery store, a small group of women pick up boxes of cereal, packages of margarine and cans of vegetables.

They read the nutrition labels and begin asking questions. In the mayonnaise aisle, one woman picks up the traditional brand, while another grabs the kind made with olive oil.

They ask Kathy Wool, a registered dietitian with the Worcester County Health Department, which is the better option. She encourages them to compare labels, focusing on fat, sodium and cholesterol.

This grocery store tour is being held for the general public by the Worcester County Health Department. Wool said it’s in part to help local residents understand new dietary guidelines and in part to celebrate National Nutrition Month, which was in March

“One of the things I have learned over the years as a dietitian is that nobody wants to give up their cheese,” joked Wool, while standing in the dairy aisle.

As part of the new guidelines, Wool said people are still being encouraged to eat the foods they love, but to enjoy fewer of them. When planning a meal, she said, about half of the plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables.

She said eating more whole grains, and fewer processed foods, can be beneficial. And she also offered tips on how to understand what the measurements on the nutrition labels actually mean.

Wool suggests taking the grams of sugar on a label and dividing it by four to determine the number of teaspoons of sugar added to the product. This trick, though, doesn’t work for milk or 100-percent juices, which have natural sugar.

While navigating the sea of nutrition advice, she said, people can eat the foods they have always enjoyed but should look at their whole day as well as their specific needs when making choices.

For example: Someone with diabetes has a focus on sugar, while someone who is trying to lose weight may focus more on overall calories and fat.

She cautions the group not to get discouraged by the amount of advice they hear from a myriad of places.

“This is why it’s really hard. … It can be so intensely confusing,” said Wool, offering another tip.

“Pick up the label and run down the percentages. If it’s over 20 percent, it’s high in that nutrient. If it’s lower than 5 percent it’s low in that ingredient.”

Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md.,

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)