For the first time in 20 years, the Nutrition Facts label, found on packaged foods, has been significantly updated to make it easier to understand. The Nutrition Facts label can help you make food choices for good health. It is a valuable tool and we want to make it easy for you to understand all of the information it includes. Check out our video on Reading the Food Label.
The new label has some changes because needs and priorities related to food have changed in the last 20 years. Here is a summary of some of the changes:
The serving size is in a large, bold font and serving sizes have been updated to better reflect what people actually eat. Pay attention to the size and number of servings you eat or drink as it may be bigger or smaller than the serving size listed.
Calories are now shown in a larger, bolder font to better display this information. The thing to remember with calories is that you may consume more or less than is listed on the label based on the size and number of servings you eat.
Added sugars are included under total sugars to help consumers understand how much sugar has been added to the product. Some foods naturally contain sugar, like fruits and dairy. The new label helps you see how much sugar is naturally present and how much is added. Consuming too much added sugar can make it hard to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie recommendations.
Potassium and Vitamin D are now required on the label because people need to consume more of these nutrients. Vitamins A and C are no longer required on the label, since deficiencies of these vitamins are rare today. Calcium and iron are still required on the label.
Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.
My commitment to giving my children fewer pre-packaged snacks this summer has gotten me thinking a lot about food labels and the impact they have on our food choices. I have done a better job of providing my children snacks that do not have a label on them at all – like fresh fruits and vegetables. But, it is hard to avoid foods in packages. For example, we are eating nuts that come packaged in a bag, cheese that I have cut into cubes from a large block, yogurt from a plastic container, and cereal from a box. All of these packages have labels and all of the labels can impact my food choices.
Some labels are pretty plain – basically telling me what is in the food I am buying. Like my block of mild cheddar cheese. Other labels are more complicated – using claims like light, sugar-free, lowfat, reduced sodium, and more. My container of yogurt has a couple of these claims. Still others are very complicated – using claims such as made with whole grains, healthy, or natural. A box of cereal may have some claims like these. Are these claims giving me information about the nutrition of the food, are they a marketing tactic to get me to buy the food, or is it a combination of both? I think it is a combination of both, and I know I want to make the best choices for my family.
For a starting point, we have some information about food package labeling and claims here on our website. If you want to know more about food label claims, here is an article that I found very helpful. For me, the bottom line is this – no matter what the food package looks like on the front, turn it over and read what is on the back or the side. Read the Nutrition Facts Panel and the ingredients list to find out what is in the food and inform your decision about whether or not you want to buy the food for yourself or your family.