Packaged products are starting to get the memo: It’s time for a wardrobe change.
But this makeover isn’t just for looks. The new Nutrition Facts label — which makes it easier to make informed choices about what you’re putting on your plate — has debuted on many cans, boxes and bags of food.
The first major label rethink in two decades isn’t small potatoes. According to Aramark’s Director of Menu Development, Amy Siverling, MS, RDN, LDN, “The biggest change is that added sugars are a required listing. Calories and serving size are more prominent. And the label clearly spells out what it means to consume a single serving versus the whole package.”
It was 1973 when the Food and Drug Administration published the first regulations that required nutrition labeling on certain foods. Since then, scientific knowledge about diet and health has grown rapidly. So has the consumer appetite for more information, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Four years ago, the FDA published final rules on the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to reflect new science, including the link between diet and chronic health conditions such as obesity and heart disease.
Some companies (with $10 million+ in annual sales) were required to update their labels by January 1, 2020 while others have another year to comply.
Even before the first of the year, the new label has been showing up — and we applaud those companies that are making changes ahead of their time.
Here are the nutrition label change highlights you should know about:
Added sugars now live on the label. That’s a sweet shift, because many people consume more sugar than they realize. Added sugars contribute zero nutrients but many added calories, which can lead to extra pounds or even obesity, a contributor to major health problems. As a reminder, women and kids* should get no more than 100 calories from added sugars (25 grams or about 6 teaspoons) a day. The max for men is 150 calories (36 grams or about 9 teaspoons).
We’re getting more realistic serving sizes. Serving size requirements hadn’t changed since 1993, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, even though people are eating more food than they should. At the same time, obesity rates have increased. Experts say the change will help you better estimate what you’re really putting on your plate.
You can put down your calculator. With the old labels, it was easy to eat a whole package or can of food thinking you’d downed just one serving. (We’ve all done it!) The new Nutrition Facts label helps guard against human error by doing the math for you.
And check out the snazzier look. Maybe you’ve already noticed the bigger, bolder font. Calories, servings per container and serving sizes are loud and proud.
- Get the lowdown on more nutrients. Vitamin D and potassium are now mandatory mentions. Vitamin D helps with calcium and bone health and could have cardiovascular benefits, too. Your cells count on potassium to function normally, and it can help your body get rid of excess sodium. (Vitamins A and C are no longer required, but they can be included voluntarily).
You’ll also find revised daily values for sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D. They’re based on updated science from the Institute of Medicine.
Smarter labels can help you and your family make healthier choices. Check out the Food Label Smarts video to show you how to use the Nutrition Facts label when you shop.
*ages 2+ (children under 2 should not consume any added sugars)