By Stephanie Prideaux, Dietetic Technician, Registered at CHOC Children’s
“Very soon you will no longer need a microscope, a calculator or a degree in nutrition to figure out whether the food you’re buying is actually good for our kids,” joked First Lady Michelle Obama on the night that the biggest changes to the food label in twenty years were publicly announced.
These updates are made to reflect new scientific knowledge and respond to America’s current state of health. The nutrition facts tell us what is in our food so that we can make healthy choices to fuel our busy lives and prevent disease.
The new rules affect the familiar black and white (and commonly overlooked) nutrition facts panel. Companies can start at any time, but you can be sure to see them by July 27, 2018. Familiarize yourself with the major changes so you can be sure you’re buying the best foods for you and your family.
Big and Bold Calories
Calories (the amount of energy food contains) per serving will now be bigger and bolder, making them easier to read.
Serving Sizes That We Actually Eat
Instead of the standard portion sizes used in the past, these new servings will be increased or decreased to match the amount that people in the U.S. normally eat. Odd-sized servings, like a 20-ounce bottle of coke, which would previously have read as one and a half servings, will be labeled as one whole serving. Packages with multiple servings that might also be eaten in one sitting, such as a bag of chips, will have two columns: one with nutrition information per serving and another with information per whole package.
Packages will also start to list how much sugar was added to sweeten the product. Watch out, because every 4 grams added is like putting a whole teaspoon of sugar in your food or drink!
Percent Daily Values (%DVs) Updated and Better Explained
Percentages posted to the right of each nutrient are a simple guide that most people can use to make healthy food choices. Remember that we only need to eat 100 percent of these. So, if all of our foods for the day are adding up to be far above or under 100 percent, you may want to make different choices in your meal pattern. For example, many Americans are eating too much sodium and cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease.
Say Hello to Vitamin D and Potassium
Vitamin D and potassium play important roles in health and preventing chronic disease, but many people are not getting enough. These have been added to help people make healthy choices toward meeting their recommended daily intake.
Goodbye, Vitamins A and C!
These days, it is rare for someone not to get enough of these two vitamins. We still need them, but we can happily say goodbye to them from our nutrition facts panel.
The Bottom Line:
Many of the healthiest foods you can find will never even have a food label. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, meats, dairy, and water are whole unprocessed items that will help us reach 100 percent of the nutrients we need to help us feel great, look great and prevent chronic disease.
All foods can fit into a healthful lifestyle. When choosing packaged foods, remember to read the label and be a little like Goldilocks with your nutrients: not too much, not too little, but juuuuust right.