THE FOOD LABEL IS UNDERGOING A MAJOR TRANSFORMATION FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MORE THAN 20 YEARS! LEARN WHAT WILL BE CHANGING AND HOW THIS WILL IMPACT YOU!
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently unveiled a brand-new layout for the food label that represents the innumerable changes in nutrient recommendations that have occurred over the past 20-plus years.1 At first glance, there may appear to be minimal changes, but as you take a closer look you’ll see that the FDA has been keeping up with your eating habits and the latest research rather than keeping up with the Kardashians. This is good news for everyone.
Here are four major changes you should be aware of as these changes slowly start to appear on the food you buy!
#1: BIGGER, BOLDER FONT
If you polled 10 people and asked them about the first place they look on a nutrition label you’d get 10 different answers.
Some would say “total fat.”
Others would say “calories.”
And some would suggest “sodium.”
Unfortunately, each of those is incorrect…
No section has a bigger impact on your nutrition than “serving size.”
This is the first place to look on the label regardless of your goals. Sure, one gram of fat looks nice, but if a serving size is a cookie the size of a dime, well, it’s safe to say you’ll be taking in much more than one gram of fat at that meal…
To help guide consumer’s eyes to the most important aspects of the label, the new label now has a bigger, bolder font for the following sections:
- Serving size
- Servings per container
- Calories per serving
The serving size, and servings per container, set the tone for the meal to come. Choosing a low-calorie food means nothing if you take in multiple servings. And given that total calories dictate change in weight, emphasis on “total calories” will further help bring awareness to what you’re putting into your bodies.
Remember, whether your calories come from healthy or not-so-healthy foods isn’t as important as total calories. You can gain weight eating clean.
The outcome of this change is to help you prioritize portions to better manage your weight. You can learn more about personalized portions for weight loss in my latest eBook, “A Dietitian’s Dozen Fat-Loss Tips!”
#2: UPDATED SERVING SIZES
We’re all guilty of buying a food marketed to be “low” in the flavor-impacting nutrient it primarily contains.
- “Low-fat” peanut butter
- “Low-calorie” cookies
- “low-sodium” chips
Many manufacturers care about sales much more than your health; thus, they often twist and bend the rules of nutrition labeling to sell more product. One sneaky strategy they use is misleading labeling. So-called “health products” will often claim to be low in a specific nutrient – usually carbohydrates or fat – to grab your attention as you sift through the countless available options.
How do they do that?
By listing an unrealistic serving size…
The serving size listed – often one cookie or cracker – is by no means practical. When you eat a “normal” portion, you ultimately end up eating significantly more calories than you expected, yet feel better because the item you chose is healthy.
Do you see the problem with that?
No longer will unrealistic serving sizes be represented on the food label. Rather than what seems like minuscule portions being the standard counting point, the FDA has adapted what it deems as “common” serving sizes to best help guide consumers.
A bottled drink will no longer contain two or three servings. A 12 and 20-ounce bottle will both be respected as one serving, rather than eight ounces being recognized as a serving. Yes, this means you no longer need to do tough multiplication to identify the calories and nutrients you’ve just consumed.
Per the FDA, “The serving sizes must be based on the amounts of food and drink that people typically consume, not on how much they should consume.”
This will help you to be more aware of the number of calories and nutrients you’re putting into your body. In addition to the bottle beverage example above, more concrete changes are expected to be announced soon.
#3: ADDED SUGARS
There’s a new kid on the (nutrition label) block: added sugars.
By featuring the specific amount of added sugars on the label, the FDA is attempting to differentiate between the sugar found naturally in foods – think fruit and vegetables – and the sugar added throughout the production process.
Added sugar can be fine in moderation, however, the FDA – as well as several other expert organizations such as the World Health Organization and American Heart Association – recognize that a reduction from the current average (13 percent of total calories) may have a positive impact on your health. By reducing the amount of added sugar you consume, you’ll hopefully choose more nutrient-dense foods, which will work in your favor to enhance your health and physique.
#4. NEW NUTRIENTS FEATURED
The old food label included daily values for vitamins A and C, and minerals iron and calcium. The transformed version of 2016 now mandates that vitamin D and potassium be featured on the label, as well as calcium and iron. Vitamin A and C are now voluntary.
When the food label was last updated (remember, this was over 20 years ago…), vitamin A and C deficiency were quite common. To help alleviate this widespread deficiency, the FDA brought awareness to vitamin A and C content of many foods to promote higher intake of vitamin A and C rich food.
Fast forward a couple decades and vitamin A and C deficiency are no longer as common in the United States. Vitamin D deficiency, however, is the most abundant nutrient deficiency in the U.S. now.2 Although sunlight is the major source of vitamin D, and many foods contain little, if any, vitamin D, the goal of featuring the amount per food is to bring awareness to the need to choose vitamin D foods.
Sources of vitamin D include: fortified dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), egg yolks, mushrooms, salmon, tuna, and sardines.
Potassium was added to the list because low potassium levels are associated with an increased risk for many chronic diseases.3 Most fruits and vegetables are a good source of potassium. Excellent sources include oranges, avavocados, tomatoes, potatoes, and of course, bananas.
NOTE: By July 26, 2018, all labels must comply with these new standards.
1.U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (May 20, 2016). Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label. Retrieved from: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm.
- Fulgoni, V. L., Keast, D. R., Bailey, R. L., & Dwyer, J. (2011). Foods, Fortificants, and Supplements: Where Do Americans Get Their Nutrients? Journal of Nutrition, 141(10), 1847-1854.
3.Bazzano, L. A., Serdula, M. K., & Liu, S. (2003). Dietary intake of fruits and vegetables and risk of cardiovascular disease. Current atherosclerosis reports, 5(6), 492-499.