The nutrition facts label recently got a makeover. The new label is designed to help consumers make healthy choices. While much of the label stayed the same, notable changes were made to calories, serving sizes, sugars, and micronutrients. People often don’t know what to look at when they look at the nutrition facts label. With a little guidance, reading the nutrition facts label is not only easy, but can be a useful tool. The nutrition facts label can help you avoid ingredients for food allergies/intolerances. It can be used to help you increase or decrease nutrients in your diet, and it can be used to help you compare multiple products.
One problem with the old label was that the serving sizes did not reflect how much people were actually eating. New labels have the serving sizes shown in larger fonts, and reflect portion sizes that people are more likely to consume. This does not mean that the serving size is the recommended portion size though.
Just because the label is showing a larger portion size does not mean you have to eat a larger portion. When looking at the nutrition facts label and serving sizes it is important to remember that if you consume more or less than 1 serving of something, all of the nutrients on the label will change. Calories per serving are now listed larger and in bold which will make them easier to see, and calories from fat will no longer be listed on the label. According to the FDA, research shows that the type of fat matters more than the amount of calories from fat which is why calories from fat were removed. Nuts, nut butters and avocado for example are healthy sources of fat that people might avoid because of the amount of calories from fat.
A new addition to the nutrition facts label is added sugars which will be listed under total sugars. The percent daily value will be shown in addition to the amount of added sugars in grams. It is important to be able to distinguish between added sugars, and natural sugars. For example plain yogurt and milk contain sugar, but they do not contain added sugars. They only contain lactose which is natural milk sugar. However chocolate milk or strawberry yogurt contain added sugars. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that no more than 10 percent of daily calories should come from added sugars.
The old nutrition facts label included the percent daily values of calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. Vitamin A and vitamin C deficiencies are rare in the US, and as a result, these are no longer required to be included on the nutrition facts label.
Vitamin D and potassium have been added as requirements on the label because these are nutrients Americans often do not get enough of. These nutrients will now be shown in mg/mcg in addition to the contributing percent daily values.
Daily values are reference amounts of nutrients to consume or limit, and they will be updated on the new labels based on new research. Limit foods high in total fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars, and try to increase foods high dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, potassium and iron. A good rule of thumb is the 5/20 rule. If the %DV is under 5, the serving is low in the nutrient, if the %DV is over 20, it is high in the nutrient.
When reading the nutrition facts label don’t forget to read the ingredients too! Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Look for short ingredient lists with recognizable ingredients.
Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and owner of the private practice LNZnutrition LLC. She provides nutrition counseling and education to clients of all ages with many nutrition needs. Linzy enjoys sharing her love and nutrition expertise with others through counseling, her LNZnutrition blog and social media pages, including Facebook and Instagram.
Main Photo Credit & Second Photo Credit: Ekaterina_Minaeva/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Charles Knowles/shutterstock.com