New Nutrient Fact Label: Guide to improved health

Originally published in the Kenosha News

By Kenosha/Racine Counties FoodWIse Administrator, Terri Ward

You may have noticed changes on the Nutrient Fact Labels on many foods.

The updates target links between ways to monitor your diet and chronic food-related diseases such as obesity and heart disease and will make it easier for consumers to make better-informed food choices. So how can these changes improve health?

Following is a summary of the updates with suggestions on how, or why, to apply them.

Change: “Number of servings per container “and “serving size” lines are now larger and bolded and the serving sizes have been updated to more accurately reflect the amount of the food we actually consume in a serving.

Application: Monitor the number of servings you regularly consume, and occasionally measure out the serving size to make sure you’re on track with portions. Remember, calories listed are per serving, not necessarily for the entire package or container. If you consume more than one serving occasionally, as most of us, you may be surprised to learn just how much fat, sugar, or sodium you’re actually consuming when you do the math.

Change: Calories are now larger and bolder, therefore, easier to read. “Calories from fat” is being removed as we’ve learned that the type of fat consumed is more relevant to health.

Application: Monitoring overall calories consumed versus calories burned is an effective strategy to get the energy you need and maintain a healthy weight. The average calorie recommendation is 2,000 per day, but we need to adjust this based on age, weight, and our levels of physical activity. Aim for no more than 10% of total calories per day from saturated fats (beef, dairy, processed meats, tropical oils), replacing them when possible with unsaturated fats (fish, avocado, nuts and seeds, olives, vegetable oils). Total fats, for the average adult, should comprise about 25-30% of daily calories.

Change: Added sugars in grams and as a percentage of the daily value (%DV) will now be required.

Application: Per the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans no more than 10% of total daily calories should come from added sugars. Notice how many calories you get from added sugars versus total sugars, which include naturally occurring sugars found in many healthy foods such as fruit, for example. Choose fruits and vegetables to get the vitamins, minerals, and fiber you need, and avoid added sugars, a major culprit in the average American diet, which are “empty calories” (lack nutrients).

Change: Types of nutrients listed at the bottom have been updated. Vitamin D, and potassium are newcomers and will be expressed as the amount needed in micro or milligrams in addition to the percent of daily value (%DV) alongside Calcium and iron.

Application: Americans are frequently low on these nutrients, whereas deficiencies in vitamins A and C are no longer as prevalent. The percent daily value (%DV) helps consumers more easily understand the number of nutrients within the context of a daily diet.

Remember, with any dietary change; consult your health care professionals to determine best strategies for your own unique needs.