How the Nutrition Facts Label Can Improve Your Health

While the nutrition facts label on packaged foods was updated back in 2016 to reflect new scientific information, manufacturers were not required to update their labels until recent years. 

Here is a quick breakdown of when manufacturers were required to make the change by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

  • Manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual sales were required to update their labels by Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales were required to update their labels by Jan. 1, 2021. 
  • Manufacturers of most single-ingredient sugars (i.e., honey and maple syrup) were required to update their labels by July 1, 2021. 

This was the first major change to the label since it was introduced in 1994. The updated nutrition facts label includes information about the link between diet and chronic diseases, such as obesity and heart disease, and is required on all packaged foods made in the U.S. and imported from other countries. The new label also makes it easier for consumers to make healthier and more informed food choices.

What changed on the nutrition facts label?

While the iconic look of the nutrition facts label remains, some important updates were made to ensure consumers can make better informed decisions about the foods and beverages they consume. 

Further, the footnote now better explains what “% Daily Value” means. The updated label now reads: “*The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”

Calories and Fat

With a larger and darker font, the calories are now the easiest item to see on the label. Additionally, the type of fat you consume matters more than the overall amount of fat. As such, the label now shows the percentages of calories from unhealthy trans and saturated fats, rather than the percentage of calories from all fat.

Added Sugars

Did you know that the two main sources of added sugars are snacks and sweets and sugary drinks? Less than 10% of your daily calories should be from added sugars. If you eat even one sugary drink or large dessert per day, then you likely are consuming more than the recommended daily sugar limit.

The updated label not only shares the total percentage of calories from sugars but also the percentage from added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in milk or fruit, are not added sugars. 

Added sugars include:

  • Brown sugar
  • Maple sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses

Want to learn more about the recommended daily sugar limit? Check out our other blog, Maintaining A Healthy Diet: Recommended Daily Sugar Limit And Healthier Sugar Alternatives.

Serving Size

A few decades ago, people consumed smaller amounts than they do now. Therefore, the updated serving size reflects what people are more likely to eat or drink in one serving and not necessarily the portions they should eat. One such example is the serving size of ice cream at ⅔ cup or a 20-ounce bottle of soda labeled as one serving. The updated serving sizes offer a more realistic view of the number of calories and nutrients consumed per portion.

Two Column Labels

Continuing off the updated serving size information, there are some food and drinks that contain more than one serving but that a person may consume the contents of the entire package at one time. For example, a pint of ice cream has more than one serving but many people eat the entire pint at once. The dual column label provides calorie and nutrition information for one serving as well as the whole package.

Nutrients Required on Label

Manufacturers now must declare the actual amount and the % Daily Value of vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required but manufacturers can include it on a voluntary basis.

Decrease in Sodium Allowance

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the daily limit for sodium decreased from 2,400 mg per day to 2,300 mg per day. This change is now reflected on the nutrition facts labels.

Interested in learning more facts or myths about the nutrition facts label? Check out our blog, Looking Beyond The Label: 8 Healthy Food Myths.

Tips to Make Better Informed Choices for a Healthy Diet

The average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar per year, which equates to about three pounds each week. Plus, with more individuals working from home, the temptation to over-indulge is greater than ever before. In fact, the average American typically gains one to two pounds in an entire year.

With this in mind, below are a few tips or things to keep in mind from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to help you make healthier choices about what you eat and drink: 

  • Keep your daily intake of added sugars to less than 10% of your total calories.
  • Read the nutrition facts labels on your packaged food and drinks.
  • Most sodium we consume is from salt that is commonly in processed foods.
  • Drink plain water instead of sugary beverages.
  • Limit the serving size of sugary snacks or treats. If you are going to indulge in a dessert, keep it small.
  • Be sure you know how many servings are in food. For example, if you buy what looks like an individual sized chicken pie, check the label because it might actually be two servings.

Want to learn more about the nutrition facts label? Download our free infographic!

ER Near Me September Offer - 8 Nutritional Facts to Look For