Get the Facts on the New Nutrition Label
You may have already noticed some differences in the way the Nutrition Facts panel looks. The new and improved Nutrition Facts label will help you make better decisions about the foods and beverages you eat and drink. Become a smart shopper by reading food labels and start making healthier choices today. Here's how:
Start with the Servings per Container and Serving Size
- Look for both the number of servings in the package and the serving size (the amount for one serving).
- Serving sizes on the new label reflect the portions most people are eating, not what they should be eating.
- Remember to compare the portion you take to the serving size listed on the label. If the label serving size is one cup, and you eat two cups, you are getting twice the calories, fat and other nutrients listed on the label.
- For packages that contain more than one serving but could reasonably be eaten in one sitting, a second column will be listed to show the nutrition information for the whole package.
Limit Saturated Fat, Trans Fat and Sodium
Eating less of these may help reduce your risk for some chronic diseases.
- Keep saturated fats to less than 10% of total calories daily by replacing them with unsaturated fats.
- Limit Trans fats as much as possible.
- Limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg daily (for adults and children 14 years and older). Adults with prehypertension and hypertension may benefit from reducing it further to 1,500mg per day.
Limit Sources of Added Sugars
Food and drinks with added sugars often lack nutrients and take the place of more nutritious foods. Examples of added sugars include white granulated and brown sugars, as well as syrups, nectars, honey and other sweeteners.
On the new labels, the amount of added sugars will show grams per serving and a percent daily value (DV). Limit added sugars to less than 10% of your total calories per day.
Nutrients That May Be Lacking
The new labels put a focus on nutrients many Americans don’t get enough of, including vitamin D, calcium and potassium. Iron also is listed, since young children, adolescent girls and women who are capable of becoming pregnant may not get enough. These nutrients have replaced vitamins A and C on the new label.
Check the Ingredient List
Foods with more than one ingredient must have an ingredient list on the label. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Those in the largest amounts are listed first. Food manufacturers also are required to indicate if food products contain ingredients that are derived from the 8 major allergenic foods: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.
What Claims on Food Labels Really Mean
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict guidelines on how certain food label terms can be used. The FDA also sets standards for health and nutrient related claims to help consumers identify foods that are rich in nutrients and those that may help reduce the risk for certain diseases based on the available research. For example, health claims may highlight the link between calcium, vitamin D and osteoporosis, or sodium and high blood pressure (hypertension). These are some of the claims that can be seen on food packaging, as defined by the FDA:
- Reduced: 25% less of the specified nutrient or calories than the usual product
- Fat free/sugar free: less than ½ gram of fat or sugar per serving
- Low sodium: 140 mg or less of sodium per serving
Written by Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' registered dietitian nutritionists