Healthy eating isn’t always straightforward but with the new Nutrition Facts Label, it may be getting easier. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has created a new Nutrition Facts Label that illuminates the most important information to help consumers make the best-informed decision on food products. It’s no surprise that nutrition is directly linked to chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, it is very important to understand what is in the food we eat and how it contributes to our overall nutrient needs. This will help us better fuel our bodies with 100% of its needs and avoid eating too much. Here are some of the updated helpful features of the new Nutrition Facts Label:
More Accurate Serving Sizes
When reviewing a Nutrition Facts Label, you should first look at the serving size and servings per container. This section has been updated to include the most commonly consumed portion size of a product, rather than the recommended amount it previously included. When multiple servings are packaged in a single container, many people consume over the recommended amount. Therefore, this change was intended to offer a better estimate of the calories and macro and micronutrients consumed in a typical portion size.
Removal of “Calories from Fat”
You will no longer see “Calories from Fat” listed on the Nutrition Facts Label. This information does not highlight anything of major importance, and can add to the confusion of reading food labels. In removing the attention of calories from fat, it redirects the focus back to "Total Calories," which also appears larger in size than on the previous label. This may help individuals make more educated decisions about a healthy snack while not feeling overwhelmed with unnecessary information. It’s important to note that the grams of fat are still important when determining if a product is the right choice for you and your dietary needs.
Identifying Added Sugars
Another new feature is listing “Sugar” as “Total Sugar” with the addition of “Added Sugars” on the Nutrition Facts Label. This was done to clarify the total amount of sugar in a product, including added sugars, which was not a requirement before. This requirement varies depending on the food item. For example, single-ingredient packages such as honey and maple syrup are not required to list the grams of added sugar but must write the percent daily value (%DV) for added sugars in a serving. Certain dried cranberry and cranberry juice products, however, must list the grams of added sugar and the %DV of added sugars. This small change to the Nutrition Facts Label can have a big impact in helping individuals make healthier and informed decisions while reducing added sugar intake to fall within daily recommendations.
Important Nutrients Included: Vitamin D and Potassium
It is now required to include vitamin D and potassium (in addition to calcium and iron) on the Nutrition Facts Label. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and promotes bone growth. With 42% of Americans deficient in Vitamin D, it’s critical to gain a better understanding of what food sources contribute to vitamin D intake so that you can obtain proper nutrition and stay in good health. Potassium is one of the most important minerals in our bodies for regulating fluids, nerve and muscle health. Potassium can also help to reduce high blood pressure. The recommended amount of potassium is 4700 mg per day, and according to the NHANES 2009-2010 data, less than 25% of males and less than 1% of females were consuming the recommended amounts.
Bottom Line: The important changes made to the Nutrition Facts Label are intended to help consumers gain a better understanding of the nutritional quality of the foods they are eating by highlighting and including the most important information and nutrients. The label changes may encourage consumers to increase the intake of common nutrients such as vitamin D and potassium, as well as help them be properly informed on nutrients that contribute to poorer health, such as added sugars. This increase in nutrition-related knowledge may ultimately help decrease the incidence of chronic disease and improve overall health and well-being.
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Written by Sarah Durand, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern