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Sheltering Arms Blog

New Nutrition Facts Label: 3 Things You Need to Know


Posted on: January 6, 2020 by Jenny Lankford

By: Kim Dillon, Registered Dietician

One of the most popular goals at the start of each new year is to eat healthier. This year, for the first time in 25 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has implemented new regulations for nutrition labels that may make it easier to accomplish this goal.

The purpose of a nutrition label is to let you know how many calories you’re about to eat, but it also lists the amount of fat, carbohydrates, protein, sodium, cholesterol and some nutrients. However, over recent years, research has supported a deeper understanding of nutrition and the new label reflects that knowledge.

Here are three ways the new label can help you choose healthier options:

  1. More realistic portions: Just 13 chips in a serving? Most of us eat twice that much. On the new nutrition labels, serving sizes are now based on the amount people are actually eating, not suggested serving size. Serving sizes for packages that are in between one and two servings will be labeled as one serving. Dual columns will be used for packages that are larger than a single serving. The ‘calories’ number is also larger and in bolder type, which may help people with weight management.
  2. Noting added sugars: An important change is the addition of “Added Sugars,” which is now listed under “Sugars.” Added Sugar refers to sugars and syrups added during processing or added at the table such as white or brown sugar, raw sugar, cane sugar/juice, corn syrup, maple syrup, and honey. Added sugar does not refer to healthy, naturally occurring sugars in dairy products that provide protein, calcium and Vitamin D; fruits and vegetables that provide fiber, vitamins/minerals and antioxidants; or grains that provide fiber and vitamins/minerals.

    Foods with a lot of added sugars include soda; desserts like cakes, cookies and pies; sweetened yogurt and milks; sweetened cereals and fruit; and sport drinks. It’s easy to overconsume added sugar, which contributes to empty and extra calories leading to extra pounds and possibly obesity. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 grams of Added Sugar for men and no more than 25 grams for women each day.
  3. Change in nutrients required on the label: The old label listed vitamins A and C, but those lines have been deleted since few people have vitamin A or C deficiencies. Instead, research shows many people have insufficient levels of vitamin D and potassium. The new label lists actual amounts of important nutrients in the product, as well as the percent of the Daily Value that product will provide you.
Old nutrition label (left) and new nutrition label (right)

You’ve likely already noticed the new labels on many foods in the grocery store since manufacturers who sell more than $10 million in products annually had to make the switch by January 1st. Manufactures who sell less than this amount must comply by January 1, 2021.

Remember, fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t required to carry the label, only packaged foods and beverages are, so some of your healthiest food choices remain label-free and nutrition rich. If eating healthier is your goal this year, use the improved food label to help you make a few simple changes.

Did you enjoy this article? Check out our new Healthy Eats series for healthy recipe inspiration from local chefs.