The nutrition label is the field you see on your food that calculates the nutrient information. The label is a useful tool when buying food, but has not had a significant update for over twenty years. Now, decades of food research have prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to redirect labeling in ways that reflect current consumer trends and new food research.
Some of the changes focus on portion sizes and the amount of sugar Americans eat today, while others ̵
Here are four ways in which newly improved nutrition labels can help you make healthier choices when consuming packaged foods and beverages.
Click to expand
1. Finally, you can calculate the added sugar
Added sugar refers to forms of sugar that do not occur naturally in food or drink (such as sugar in fruits), but which are added to it. For years, public health organizations have recommended daily limits on added sugar, as research shows that this can increase the risk of obesity and chronic diseases. With the old label, it was difficult to calculate because all the simple sugars in a product were piled together. For example, the flavored yogurt label will contain both added sugars and naturally occurring lactose sugars.
Consumers will now be able to see the added sugar released, although it will be some time before this change is required for single sugar products such as pure honey, maple syrup and some dried blueberries. Malena Perdomo, a nutritionist and diabetes educator based in Denver, said TODAY that the new way added sugars are presented on food labels is the change she is most excited about. Now the breakdown of sugars in products that seem to contain a lot of sugar, such as raisin cereals, will be clearer. For example, she said: “How much of the sugar is natural in raisins compared to the added sugar? The new labels will respond to this. “
2. The size of the serving reflects the amounts that people are in fact I eat
The older label determines portion sizes based on what people should eat, not what they actually eat. For example, people are more likely to consume at least half a pint of ice cream than a quarter pint, which was previously suggested as a portion size. In this way, the new label will offer a more accurate picture of consumer habits. After all, when most people buy a bottle of soda, they drink the whole thing and do not distribute less than what the bottle contains.
This change in etiquette can lead to improvements in eating habits, including helping to prevent overeating. Nicole Holness, a registered nutritionist and owner of Holnesss Nutrition in New York, supports the change in the amount of service. “This is important so that one is less likely to eat the whole container,” she said. It helps them make a more informed decision.
3. Calories from fat are removed
The old label calculates the percentage of calories from fat, which assumes that all fats are created equal. He also suggests that the calories from these fats are the most important values. New data show that it is not the calories from fat that are important, but rather the type of fat. For example, studies show that unsaturated fats (mono and poly) can play a role in disease prevention by reducing the risk factors for metabolic syndrome and can also help with weight management. Some saturated fats can actually increase the risk of chronic diseases.
4. It’s harder to ignore total calories
The new label shows a bolder approach to portion sizes and calories, making them harder to miss (and even harder to ignore). The calories from certain products can also be shown in two images – both the total calories per serving and the total if you end up eating the whole package. Holness said adding new calories could be a big benefit. “I like that the calories are bold so that consumers can see what the numbers are,” she said. “This is the first thing they see, so they may wonder if it’s worth eating the product.”
Etiquette can support change, but education is still key
Consumer research shows that people may think that the portion size of the product is the “recommended” amount they should consume. Therefore, in addition to the new labeling, explaining what “portion size” means is crucial in helping people understand how much to eat. With this in mind, some nutritionists may need to adjust the way they train patients.
Perdomo, for example, approved the new label, but said she would “miss the little box that shows nutrient recommendations based on a 2,000-calorie diet.” She advised customers to look at this “mini box as a reminder that sodium should be less than 2,300 milligrams a day and aim for more than 25 grams of dietary fiber.”
The new FDA Nutrition Label gives a better feel for the nutrients and portions we need to focus on for better health these days. It is a useful tool for achieving an overall healthy lifestyle – and one that can help support educational nutrition efforts to teach people how to make healthy choices that contribute to a healthy and balanced diet throughout life.