Nutrition Labels are Getting a Makeover
By Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD of Appetite for Health
When did you last use the Nutrition Facts panel of food packages before you purchased an item? If it’s been a while, you’re not alone. According to the NPD Group, fewer than half of all shoppers use the nutrition information on food labels to help guide their purchases.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently announced its proposed regulations for updating the 20-year-old Nutrition Facts panel found on virtually all packaged foods. The update is based on the latest scientific research linking diet to chronic diseases and is designed to make it easier for shoppers to get the information they need at a glance to make informed food choices.
The major changes that you’ll see with the proposed new Nutrition Facts panel are that calories are more prominent, serving sizes are more realistic and you’ll now see “added sugars” separate from the total sugars (naturally occurring plus added). Most nutrition pros are happy with the proposed changes, which may take a few years to be implemented.
Here’s what to like about the food labels of the future:
1. Not all sugars are created equal. Most health organization, like the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization, recommend decreasing the intake of calories from added sugars in the diet. Currently, Americans get about 16% of their calories from added sugars or about 2-3 times as much as what’s recommended. The new food label is designed to help reduce added sugar intake. For the first time, “Added Sugars” would be included on the Nutrition Facts Panel separate from total sugars so consumers can easily identify if what they’re about to buy contains unhealthy added sugars. The “sugars” in most Suja juices come from naturally occurring sources, like organic fruits and vegetables.
2. Calories Count. The proposed label emphasizes the calories and calories per serving. This is an effort by the FDA to help curb the obesity epidemic by making calories so prominently displayed on the label. The font size for calories will be increased and will be displayed front and center, so you won’t be able to miss the calorie counts.
3. Serving Sizes Get Real. No longer will you notice puny portion sizes on food labels. For example, ice cream serving size will go from ½ a cup to 1 cup and most beverages will be based on a 12-oz serving instead of 8 ounces. In addition, food manufactures won’t be able to list the contents of an item that’s in a package size that’s typically eaten as one portion–like a frozen dinner or 20-oz beverage–as more than one serving. New serving sizes are also proposed for many foods and beverages that will be more typical of what people eat rather than an unrealistic portion that represents what they “should be eating.”