As part of any nutrition plan our success, in part, is dependent on knowing several facts about the foods we’re eating. For example, the number of calories, amount of added sugar, number of servings per container, amount of protein, fats and carbohydrates. To gather that information we depend on the nutrition label, however, in the U.S. the current nutrition label was designed in 1993 and is long overdue for a redesign. The old label made it difficult to know the number of servings, servings per container and what a serving size actually is. It was also difficult to know the difference between how many calories per serving and how many calories per the container.
Beginning this year we will see big changes as the FDA implemented regulations for packaged foods that reflect new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease. Additionally, the new design will make it far easier to understand a more detailed look at the items we need to pay attention too.
The more notable changes (see comparison labels below) include larger font for number of calories, servings in the container and the serving size. As the science of nutrition has progressed in recent years it was also important to highlight potential unhealthy items on the label. Like, added sugars which is very important as it will be impossible to stay within your daily allotted calorie intake if you consume more than 10 percent of your calories from added sugar (due to sugars high calorie count).
Other changes include listing nutrients like Vitamin D and potassium; these will now be required on the new label. While calcium and iron will continue to appear on the label, it is important to note that vitamin A and C are now “voluntary” and appear only if the manufacturer includes them.
When it comes to fat content, the new label will still require total fat, saturated fat and trans fat, however, calories from fat will be removed as it doesn’t provide information on the “type” of fat which is far more important.
Familiar nutrients (fiber, vitamin D, sodium) will now be updated to comply with the Institute of Medicine and Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommendations on the percent of daily value. New research suggests lowing sodium intake, while increasing fiber and vitamin D are important for overall health and should be reflected on the nutrition label.
Lastly serving sizes, which are the most important factors to know and track, have been updated to reflect what we are actually eating and not what we should be eating. Since the original label design in 1993 the serving sizes we consume has changed significantly. For example the previous serving size for soda is 8oz, most people are actually consuming 12oz and these updated serving sizes have been factored into the new label. Why is this important? By reflecting the serving sizes most consumers use the calorie count will now be based on those larger sizes, allowing more accuracy in tracking our daily calorie count.
Another very important change is the servings per container. For items that are larger than one serving, manufacturers are now required to include two labels on the package. One reflects the per serving size and nutrition information, the other states the nutrition information per package which will be less confusing. Consumers may think the per serving calories are the same as the per package calories (for example, if the per serving calories is 100 and there are four servings per package then the whole package is 400 calories). Knowing the per package calorie count will hopefully prevent consumers from over eating.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the old and new nutrition label. Feel free to add a comment to this article if you have any questions about the old or new labels or nutrition content of the labels.
Below is a guide on how to read a nutrition label, please take a few minutes to review the label and note what is important. Also, when shopping, become a label reader… know what you’re buying and consuming!