Navigating the NEW Nutrition Facts Label
If you are an avid reader of nutrition facts labels– those nicely printed info sheets on the side of pre-packaged foods- you may have noticed some changes in how they look. These changes reflect the newest nutrition recommendations based on ongoing research linking nutrition and overall health. The FDA (Federal Drug Administration) announced the new nutrition facts label over a year ago, but as we all know, it takes a long time for new designs to be implemented by each and every food company, and roll out on the shelves in grocery stores near you. With that being said, nutrition labels are required to change by July 2018, and here is a brief key to help you understand what all the information on your food really means.
Serving Size and Calories
Calories have always been listed at the top of the nutrition facts label to inform customers how many calories are in the listed serving size in the package or container. However, since consumers typically don’t want to eat high calorie foods, serving sizes have been made smaller and smaller by food companies to create the illusion the food is healthier than it truly is. For this reason, the new nutrition facts label requires serving sizes to more adequately represent how much of the food a person will eat. In addition, if a package is considered “single serving” such as a moderate size bag of chips, information should be provided on nutrition for one “serving” and the nutrition information for the entire package as well.
Added sugars will be a new category listed under total carbohydrates to let customers know how much sugar is naturally found in the food versus how much sugar was added to the final product. Research shows that consuming more than 10% of calories from added sugars can increase risk for heart disease, weight gain and increases risk of not getting enough vitamins, minerals, protein and other necessary nutrients without eating too many calories. Added sugars in the context of the new nutrition facts label means any sugar added in the processing step (even if the sugar came from natural sources). For example, a plain apple would have no added sugar as all its sugar comes from the food itself. An apple pie would include the sugar from apples in total sugars, but only count the white sugar added to the crust and pie filling as added sugar.
Daily Value (%DV)
Many individuals find the Percent Daily Value column on the nutrition label to be confusing. This value provides a recommendation on how much of each of the listed components should be eaten based on a 2000 calorie per day diet. For example, 8 grams of total fat is 10% of the Daily Value. This means that based on a 2,000 calorie diet, an individual should aim to eat less than 80 grams of fat per day. Since the food contains 8 grams, this is 10% of the “allotted” or recommended amount of fat per day. Everybody is different, and not all individuals follow a 2,000 calorie per day diet, so these values are a rough approximation simply to give you an idea of how much of a specific nutrient is in a food. If the %DV is high, it simply means that a serving of that food based on the food packaging provides a high amount of that nutrient per serving.
Vitamins and Minerals
Last but not least, vitamins and minerals have been improved on the new nutrition facts label. Vitamin D, Calcium, Potassium, and Iron are now listed with their amount in milligrams rather than just the %DV. These vitamins and minerals are those which the average American has a difficult time meeting recommended amounts of. By listing the content of the vitamins and minerals, you can have a better understanding of how much you are consuming and how much is recommended for a healthy lifestyle.
The nutrition facts label is intended to provide customers with information so that they may make informed decisions about the food they are eating based on their individual needs and preferences.