What's In Your Food? Reading the Nuturition Facts Label

What's In Your Food?
Reading the Nuturition Facts Label

It has been more than 20 years since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required food companies to add the Nutrition Facts label on all packaging consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Our knowledge of how food, nutrition, and diets impact our health has changed over time. As a result, the Nutrition Facts label is showing its age.

In May 2016, the FDA rolled out a fresh look for the Nutrition Facts label with information that is better aligned with what we know today to help us make more informed choices about what we eat.

Charlotte Rommereim is a registered dietitian nutritionist and soybean farmer from Alcester, South Dakota, who appreciates the transparency of the new label. When her patients have questions about the nutritional benefits of foods, she instructs them to look for the facts in basic black and white.

“I encourage people to read the Nutrition Facts label for information they can use. All food products use the same label so it’s easy to compare one product with another,” said Charlotte.

With the new label popping up in grocery stores near you, here are six changes to note the next time you shop:

1. More Realistic Serving Sizes.

Have you ever looked at a serving size on a nutrition label and thought to yourself, “Who only eats THAT much?” New serving sizes will be more aligned with what we typically eat. They are clearer and listed at the top of the label. Packages that contain more than a single serving are required to list dual columns showing per serving and per package nutrition content. The type will also be larger and bolder for information at a glance.

2. Big and Bold Calories.

It will be more difficult to ignore the calorie count on those fudge brownies since calories will now be the biggest, boldest information on the label. There’s room for it because …

3. No More Calories From Fats. No, that doesn’t mean the food you’re eating no longer has fat calories. It means research shows the type of fat consumed is more important to living a healthy lifestyle than the amount.

4. Added Sugars Required.

The only sugars that occur naturally in foods are lactose (milk) and fructose (fruit). All others are considered “added sugars” that can be incorporated during processing or packaging. New labels require added sugars to be listed in grams and as a percentage of daily value so you can keep track. Research shows it’s difficult to meet nutritional needs and stay within calorie limits if you get more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugars. Think of it as the difference between eating an apple vs. applesauce. The applesauce has the added sugar, and now you will know exactly how much.

5. Updated List of Nutrients.

Say goodbye to vitamins A and C as deficiencies of these nutrients are rare today in the U.S. Say hello to vitamin D and potassium, which we sometimes lack in our diets. Calcium and iron are still required. Daily values have been updated to align with new data and now include a percentage instead of just milligrams.

6. Footnote Facelift.

The footnote language is updated to provide more context and better explain how the product fits within a recommended diet.

Charlotte encourages anyone who has questions about nutrition or the Nutrition Facts label to ask a local dietitian or visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website for more information.

Hungry for Truth is an initiative funded by South Dakota soybean farmers and their checkoff to have conversations about how food is grown and raised on today’s farms. Find recipes and learn more at hungryfortruthsd.com.

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