Just how realistic are the serving sizes on nutrition labels? Is there a difference between natural sugars and added sugars? What's the most important thing people should focus on when reading the Nutrition Facts Label? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking at changing the Nutrition Facts Label for the first time in more than 20 years. Just what do those changes mean? What will you see on the nutrition label?
Current Nutrition Facts Label Proposed Nutrition Facts Label
According to the FDA, the new label would:
- Require information about the amount of “added sugars” in a food product and update serving size requirements to reflect the amounts people currently eat
- Present “dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for larger packages that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings
- Require the declaration of potassium and vitamin D
- Revise the Daily Values for a variety of nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D
- Remove “Calories from Fat” because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount
- Refresh the format to emphasize certain elements, such as calories, serving sizes and Percent Daily Value, which are important in addressing current public health problems like obesity and heart disease.
Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD, is a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, Director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. She also serves on the Facts Up Front advisory panel. We asked Connie about her thoughts about the proposed changes:
Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD: "The proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel will hopefully make it easier for people to see what they are consuming. Making a shift to actual serving size, not the "industry standard" will make nutrition information more usable. The proposal to add 'added sugars' will allow people to see how much natural sugar many foods contain so they can weigh pros and cons, deciding which is the best choice. These changes are just one part in the battle of lowering obesity rates, but if grocery shopping is easier, consumers might, in fact, begin to change eating behaviors. Another easy shopping tool is using the Facts Up Front nutrient flags. The front of package flags quickly allow consumers to see key nutrients, making shopping easier."
Registered Dietitian Carolyn O'Neil takes a look at how to focus on what matters most when reading nutrition labels.
Understanding nutrients in foods can help you use the Nutrition Facts Label more effectively, and help you make choices that best suit your personal diet and health needs. Check out these resources from the FDA.
2010 Dietary Guidelines
Understanding & Using the
Nutrition Facts Label
Make Your Calories Count
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