It has been a long time coming, but nutrition labels in the US are finally getting a makeover. In May of this year, the FDA published the final updated guidelines. Although food manufacturers have until July 2018 to change their labeling, some companies are already starting to roll out new nutrition facts. To get you ready for the gradual change in labeling, here are some highlights of the most impactful changes to expect before 2018.
Adding “Added Sugars”
You might remember a previous post that touched on the differences between naturally occurring and added sugars. Under the old labels, a bag of apple slices appears to contain more grams of sugar than a serving of Frosted Flakes. The new labels will make the distinction, adding a separate line for “added sugars.” For the first time, this will be accompanied by a percentage. The percentage reflects the new dietary guideline recommendation that no more than 10% of total daily calories should come from added sugars.
Removing “Calories From Fat”
This may be difficult to believe, but there is no proven link between total fat intake and negative health outcomes (including cardiovascular disease). Mounting evidence suggests that the type of fat (saturated, unsaturated, trans) is far more important than the total fat in a food. Mono and polyunsaturated fats tend to be the most beneficial for health, while trans fats, or hydrogenated fats, are detrimental for the heart, raising bad (LDL) and lowering good (HDL) cholesterol.
Changes to Serving Sizes
When was the last time anyone ate 1/2 a cup of ice cream or portioned out 11 tortilla chips? The FDA knows just as well as you and me that the serving sizes on most packaged goods are unrealistically small. The new labels now must reflect how much people in 2016 are actually eating in one sitting. For example, a serving of ice cream will be changed from the aforementioned 1/2 cup to the more realistic 1 cup, and soda will change from 8 to 12 oz. When packages contain more than one serving, like a gallon of soda or a quart of ice cream, it must have a dual column label that lists the nutrition facts by serving AND by package. This way, consumers will be able to see exactly what the nutritional damage is if they eat an entire container of ice cream all at once.
New nutrition labeling that more accurately reflects current knowledge is a huge step in the right direction. These changes will allow consumers to get a better idea of how the food that they eat can impact health. That said, these labels only work if they are actually used! If you do buy packaged foods, make sure to check the nutrition facts label AND read the ingredients. Knowing the calories, sugar/fat/protein content, and micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) content of what you put into your body can help you understand how to create a diet that makes you feel the best you possibly can.
Have any questions about nutrition labels? Ask away below.