Aiming to emphasize the two things we’ve been told to pay more attention to: calories and serving size.
When it comes to eating well, anything and everything in the produce department fits into a healthy diet. But when it comes to packaged foods, like yogurt or cereal, the healthiest choice amongst the many brands isn’t quite as clear. How do you decide which is the most nutritious choice for your family? Deciphering the familiar black and white Nutrition Facts labels found on the back of food packages can be overwhelming and a bit confusing. However, choosing healthier foods in the grocery aisle may soon be a lot easier.
For the first time in nearly a decade the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing to update Nutrition Facts labels to better reflect the latest nutrition science information and modern American eating habits. The renovated label aims to inform consumers of what matters most when it comes to making food choices. So, what exactly does this proposal plan to change? I’m glad you asked.
Calorie content and serving size will be printed in larger, bolder font. This design will make it hard to overlook just how many calories are consumed per serving. With current public health concern such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, emphasizing calorie intake per serving size is a step in a more healthful direction.
Serving sizes will reflect the reality of what people actually eat. The amount of food we eat today has changed since 20 years ago, when the existing serving sizes were established. By law, serving sizes must reflect what consumers eat in a single sitting, not how much they “should” be eating. For instance, a bottle of soda that is consumed in a single sitting, whether it’s 12 or 24 ounces, would be considered a serving. This would give the average consumer a better idea of what he/she actually consumes, without calculations.
“Calories from fat” no longer listed. We now know the type of fat is more important than the total amount of fat. However, the breakdown of total, saturated and trans fat would remain.
New category, “added sugars” will be included on the label. Added sugars are empty calories, which provide no additional nutritive value to our diet. An “added sugars” category would make it clear how much sugar is naturally occurring (such as lactose, a sugar found naturally in yogurt) and how much is added by manufacturers.
Vitamin D and Potassium will be added to the label. Inadequate intakes of these nutrients are associated with an increased risk for certain chronic diseases and largely, these are nutrients Americans don’t get enough of. Vitamin D is essential for bone health, while potassium aides in maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
The newly proposed Nutrition Facts label put on the outside of the box just might change what’s put inside. A clearer, more informative nutrition label may encourage food manufactures to reformulate their food products to offer a more nutritious product; reducing calories and added sugars, while incorporating more vitamins and minerals.
The FDA welcomes public comment on the label proposal until August 1st, 2014. Click here to voice your opinion: Is the proposed label design headed in the right direction, or not?
AUTHOR: BECCA SIREK. Becca Sirek is a student studying Nutrition at the University of Minnesota and guest contributor to The Everyday Table blog.