Nutrition Labels Get a Makeover

So there was big news in the nutrition world today.

new Nutrition FactsAnd I had fun discussing FDA’s proposed revisions to the Nutrition Facts panel on CNN this morning.  Since then, you really can’t escape the news.   As First Lady Michelle Obama said:

Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family.  So this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families all across this country.

So what do you need to know about the proposed updates?

  • Calories are bigger and bolder.  You can’t miss the number of calories now.  That’s important because it all comes down to Americans eating too many calories.
  • Serving sizes get a reality check.  Servings are closer to what people actually eat — instead of 1/2 cup of ice cream, it’s 1 cup (although many people probably fill their bowl with even more).
  • Single servings are clearer.  Instead of a 20-ounce bottle of soda being labeled 2.5 servings, it will be 1 serving.  If a bag contains more than 1 serving, larger type will yell out: 8 servings per containers
  • Added sugars will be added.    This is a big one.  Now you’ll find “added sugars” broken out under the “sugars” category, which includes  both natural and added sugars.  It seems sugar has become the new trans fat, and more people are trying to reduce table sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners. Now many companies will be motivated to reformulate products to help reduce the amount of sugar that’s added to foods and beverages.
  • % DV goes first.  The percent daily value was moved to the left of the label so it’s first thing you see.  This helps put the number of grams or milligrams into context — is it high or low?  how does it fit into the rest of your diet?
  • Calories from fat are gone.  This is good.  No one knew what that meant. We’re past the low-fat era, and the type of fat we eat is more important than the amount. That’s why it’s good to still check out saturated fat and trans fat on the label. Some people thought “trans fat” would disappear from the new label since this artery-clogging fat is supposed to be disappearing from the food supply. That didn’t happen, but it may in the future.
  • Vitamin D and potassium are added.  These two “nutrients of concern” replace vitamins A and C (which are optional now).  This is good news because the American diet is low in both of those nutrients — so it makes more sense to highlight vitamin D (important for bone health) and potassium (benefits blood pressure), along with calcium and iron.
  • Fiber gets redefined.  If approved, the “fiber” on a label will no longer include purified, processed fibers such as maltodextrin and inulin that are added to fiber-fortified foods.  Only the intact, unprocessed fiber in whole foods would count.

reality check serving

You can read more about the proposed label by visiting FDA.

Or check out what others have to say:

CSPI Supports Proposed Nutrition Facts Revisions  (andt proposes their own version of the Nutrition Facts label)
Marion Nestle’s Food Politics  FDA’s New Food Label: Much Improved!
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Supports FDA’s Proposed Label Changes


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