Dear Lisa: I'm compiling a family recipe book and want to include as much nutrition information as I can for each recipe. Do you know of a source for nutrition information on unlabeled foods such as produce and other ordinary staple items? Thank you. -- Jennifer F.
Dear Jennifer: The United States Department of Agriculture has published Food Composition Databases for decades.
Once published as The Nutritive Value of Foods booklet, the information is now available online at ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/ or simply search for "USDA food composition database." The site also includes a comprehensive database for national and regional food brands.
On the site you will find "food reports," which list nutrient values for a specified food and "nutrient reports," which provide lists of foods and their nutrient values for a specified set of nutrients.
You can search by food item, food group or manufacturer's name to find the nutrient information. You can also generate lists of foods sorted by nutrient content.
For example, typing "avocado" into the search will produce nutrition information on fresh Florida and California avocados, as well as salad dressings, guacamole, avocado oil, salsa and dozens of other products containing avocados.
The USDA food composition data is in the public domain. There is no copyright, and no permission is needed for its use. It's also a good resource for developers wishing to incorporate nutrient information into apps or websites.
Lisa Fritz, a longtime Bryan food and nutrition educator, answers readers' questions about food, cooking and recipes. Her email address is email@example.com.