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Learning about exactly what’s in the food we buy can be overwhelming. Fortunately, the old food labels are getting a facelift and will be easier to interpret and understand.
The nutrition facts label mandated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a tool that can help you make improved, more informed food choices. As of July 26, 2018, a new food label is being phased in and by January 1, 2021, the old food label will be completely phased out.
In this article, I’ll be reviewing the newly updated nutrition facts food label (including the changes that will impact you the most).
Underneath the bold “Nutrition Facts” title is the number of servings in the product plus the size of a single serving. The single serving size is considered the realistic amount you will eat of the food.
For example, in a bag of chips, the serving size may be 15 chips, while the servings per package is 10 (or 150 chips). This means there are 10 servings of 15 chips in the bag. In fact, the single serving size is very important because the rest of the information on the food label is based on this portion.
Next, under the serving size, is the number of calories in a single serving. On the new label, this information is enlarged and in bold print to make it easier to find.
In our chip example, if the calorie number is 180, it means that you will get 180 calories after eating 15 chips.
The total amount of fat in a serving is the number next to the bold title “Total Fat” and listed in grams (g). Just like in the old food label, the amount of saturated fat and trans fat in the food are detailed underneath. This helps you know how much unhealthy fats are in the food.
Some companies also show the healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, but these are not required. All types of fat detailed under the “Total Fat” title are already included in the total. As a rule of thumb, I always recommend limiting your intake of unhealthy fats.
Cholesterol and Sodium
Aim to limit foods to less than 200 mg of cholesterol and less than 2300 mg of sodium per day for a healthy heart.
The total amount of carbohydrates is displayed in bold and listed in grams (g). Similar to fats, the types of carbohydrates, such as fiber and added sugars, are listed underneath and included in this total.
It’s recommended to keep your intake of added sugars to less than 10% of your total calories. If you are following a 2000 calorie diet, that means less than 50 g of added sugar daily (each gram of sugar equals 4 calories).
The last bold title is for protein, also listed in grams (g).
The recommendation is to get 10-15% of your calories from protein, which is 50 to 75 g per day for a 2000 calorie diet.
Vitamins and Minerals
The bottom section of the label has micronutrients, also known as vitamins and minerals.
The required listings are vitamin D, calcium, Iron, and potassium. With this in mind, some companies choose to list more.
% Daily Value
Along the right side of the label, you will see percentages. For fat and carbohydrate, the percentages show the amount of the recommended intake, for a 2,000 calorie diet, you will meet when eating one serving of the food.
On the other hand, for cholesterol, sodium, and the vitamins and minerals, the percentage represents your total recommended intake for the day, regardless of calorie intake.
For example, if the % daily value for cholesterol is 10%, this means that one serving of this food will give you 10% of the 200 mg limit for the day, which is 20 mg.
I’ll admit it, reading the nutrition facts label can be confusing. Fortunately, the new label changes are designed to make nutrition facts easier to read and understand.
Honestly, reading the label to make educated food choices for you and your family is a skill that takes practice. Before going to the store, I recommend you take a few minutes to look over the labels in your pantry at home.
Once you feel comfortable finding and understanding this information, you’ll be ready to take your new skill to the grocery store!
For more information about reading food labels, visit fda.gov.