The Nutrition Facts Label Gets an Upgrade
Updated: Jan 26
Healthy eating is a priority for many of my coaching clients and I was surprised to find out that they seldom take the time to read the nutrition labels because quite frankly they never really understood them. Prior to becoming a health coach, I also found it confusing and would guess at my serving sizes and did not pay attention much to how much sugar was in my product.
Earlier this summer, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its Nutrition Facts Label after 20 years to ensure consumers have access to more recent and accurate nutrition information regarding the foods we are eating. The FDA is requiring changes based on updated scientific information, new nutrition and public health research, more recent dietary recommendations from expert groups, and input from the public.
Nutrition is linked directly to chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Therefore, it is important to understand what is in the food we eat and how much we should be eating to ensure we are making good choices when it comes to our diet.
Here are some of the updated features of the new Nutrition Facts Label:
More Accurate Serving Sizes
Serving size has been updated to include the actual portion size of what an individual will eat, rather than the recommended amount it previously included. When multiple servings are packaged in a single container, many people consume over the recommended amount. This change was intended to offer a better estimate of the calories typically being consumed. Two important things to keep in mind about serving size is:
The serving size is not a recommendation of how much to eat or drink.
One package of food may contain more than one serving.
So be careful when deciding on what and how much to eat.
Removal of “Calories from Fat”
“Calories from Fat” was removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount. By doing this, the focus is now on "Total Calories," which also appears larger in size than on the previous label. It is important to note that grams of fat are still important when determining if a product is the right choice for you and your dietary needs.
Identifying Added Sugars
A 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.
The FDA’s definition of added sugar includes sugars that are either added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such, and include sugars (free, mono- and disaccharides), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice of the same type. The FDA has recognized that if added sugars are consumed in excess, it becomes more difficult to eat foods with enough dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals and still stay within calorie limits.
Personally, this one small change is such a game changer for many people who are trying to watch their sugar intake and make healthier decisions.
What about those Vitamins?
According to nationwide food consumption surveys, Vitamin D and potassium are nutrients Americans do not always get enough of and can lead to chronic disease. Vitamin D is important for its role in bone health, and potassium helps to lower 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. Interestingly, studies found that in the early 1990’s, American diets lacked Vitamins A and C, but now Vitamins A and C deficiencies in the general population are rare. Due to this, manufacturers may list these vitamins voluntarily.
Changes made to the Nutrition Facts Label are a step in the right direction and are intended to help you gain a better understanding of the nutritional quality of the foods and hopefully decrease the incidence of chronic diseases. Eating a balanced diet while remaining conscientious about your serving size and ingredients is really the key. If you would like to learn more about Nutrition Food Labels, please visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website.
In addition to our health coaching programs, First Wave Wellness also offers grocery shopping tours so that you can learn how to shop healthier, interpret food labels, and shop organic on the cheap.
Contact us to learn more. Your first consulting session is complimentary!