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Taste the World: Iceland

cold icelandIceland is known to be ‘The Land of Extremes,’ located in the North Atlantic Ocean close to the Arctic Circle. It is a magical place where the sun only comes out for 4 hours in the winter season and never sets in the summer. It is known to be one of the most peaceful countries with a top measurement in quality of life according to The Global Peace Index (Visions of Humanity, 2016). Iceland’s culture is tightly bonded with a strong sense of religion, tradition, and unity with nature. There is no doubt that the people of Iceland are one with their land. Iceland’s three main natural resources are fisheries, renewable energy, and water. Due to their exceptional and unique diet, health conditions in Iceland are outstanding with life expectancy in the 80’s and low infant mortality.

Iceland’s Plate and Dietary Guidelines

Icenland PlateIcelandic people love to keep it simple! They incorporate many fresh foods into meals including seafood (cod, salmon), lean meats (lamb, pelican), and grass fed cattle products (yogurts, cheese).

 

Iceland uses a Myplate similar to the U.S.; they call it the Food Circle. It consists of 6 food groups:

  1. Fruits & Veggies
  2. Cereal Products
  3. Dairy
  4. Animal Sources
  5. Nuts
  6. Oils & Fats

 

Water is found in the center of the circle. Icelanders believe in the health benefits of water therapy. They utilize their natural hot springs (Blue Lagoon), fresh tap water without the chemicals, and increasingly growing market of pure bottled water.  The area around the Food Circle emphasizes the importance of physical activity.

Shots of oil

Iceland’s Dietary Guidelines recommendations:

  • Eat a variety of foods.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables daily (500 g a day, at least 200 g vegetables and 200 g fruit).
  • Eat fish at least twice a week.
  • Eat wholegrain bread and fiber-rich foods.
  • Prefer low-fat dairy products with as little sugar as possible.
  • Use oil instead of butter and margarine.
  • Use salt in moderation.
  • Take cod liver oil or other vitamin D supplements.
  • Water is the best drink.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Eat in moderation.
  • Be physically active every day.

(Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2016)

No Sun No Problem!

Imagine waking up to a midnight sky and never actually seeing the sun! When asking a hotel receptionist about how the Icelandic people cope with no sun they reply, “Well, we never really get used to it” (McGovern et al., 2016). With no sun, Iceland has decreased access to the recommended intake of Vitamin D, which can lead to deficiencies and other health problems.

What is vitamin D? Vitamin D is a multifunctional fat-soluble vitamin. It works to keep the body’s bones, brain, and immune system strong. Vitamin D can be created in the body when sunlight touches the skin, it can also be consumed from other food sources such as:

  • Fatty fish – cod, salmon, trout, tuna
  • Fortified milk, cereal, and juice
  • Egg yolk
  • Beef liver
  • Fish and olive oil

Iceland consumes fish products almost 3 times a day. This high intake of fish allows them to receive high levels of iron, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, and protein. In the winter months, when sunlight is scarce, it is common to find Icelandic people taking shot glasses of olive oil.

These shots will help Icelanders get all the vitamin D they will need throughout the day, but it is certain knowing their culture they will be eating some sort of fish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Fish, fish, and more fish!

 

About the Author

FullSizeRender

Sigourney McGovern is a senior at James Madison University (JMU) with a major in Dietetics. During her freshman year in college she attended Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) pursuing a Psychology major. After a year at VCU she discovered her love for nutrition and human anatomy. In 2014 she transferred out of VCU to JMU where she pursued her passion for Dietetics. This will be her third year dancing as a Dukette, the official dance team at JMU. This dance team is currently ranked 1st in the Nation for the second year in a row. Sigourney has also traveled to over 20 countries around the world, which has allowed her to learn about new cultures and their day-to-day nutrition. Upon graduation, her goal is to obtain a dietetic internship and fulfill her interests in women’s health and infant nutrition.

My Culinary Experience in Iceland

icelandic-flag-at-thingvellir-1344246-1279x1925

In 2015 at the end of December, I traveled all the way from my hometown of Stafford, VA to the absolutely stunning city of Reykjavik, Iceland. In this last short segment I want to share a couple of memorable experiences, pictures, and interesting nutrition related events I encountered on my New Years visit.

 

There is without a doubt that Iceland is one of the most extreme and magical places I have ever been privileged to visit. The views were beautiful, the people were kindhearted, and my goodness the food was AMAZING!

Sigourney in Iceland

On our way to the hotel from the airport (semi jet lagged) my father asked the true Icelandic cab driver, “What kind of fast-food restaurants do you guys have here?” He smiled replied, “Fast food was banned back in 2009. Although we only had few the government decided it was not only bad for us and made us fat, but it was too expensive to maintain.” To my surprise I did some research upon my return to discover that in 2009 Iceland had a financial crisis and closed down all three of their McDonalds branches along with 7-11 and Starbucks. It turns out it was too expensive to import fast food goods. That’s not such a bad thing; after all why import fattening Big Macs when Iceland can harvest their own food and save a couple thousands of dollars. It was delightful to hear that on this trip I would be encountering true traditional food.

“Fast food was banned back in 2009.”

One of the local dishes I ate in Reykjavík was at a café called Fish and More. It was very small with only one woman running the whole café! Looking closer at the menu it lists:

  • Fish of the dayDining in Iceland
  • Fish stew (fishpie)
  • Salmon
  • Salmon Pesto
  • Fish Soup
  • Sub with Salmon
  • Slice of cake
  • Juice

It is safe to say if you didn’t like fish then Iceland wasn’t going to be your favorite place to eat. To the left is a picture of what my sister’s plate looked like. From a dietitian’s perspective it is a very balanced plate consisting of a protein (salmon), starch (brown rice), and vegetables (broccoli, radish, and sweet potato). This meal is very nutrient dense and high in iron, vitamin D and C, omega 3, folate, and fiber.

 

Iceland cuisine

After a 7-day visit my family and I were pretty fished out, but it was great to try new foods and witness the true beauty of mother nature. It is important to study other cultures and discover how their diets reflect their lifestyles. I can’t wait to go back to Iceland when I can actually see the sun!

 

 

 

 

About the Author:  

FullSizeRender Sigourney McGovern

Sigourney McGovern is a senior at James Madison University (JMU) with a major in Dietetics. During her freshman year in college she attended Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) pursuing a Psychology major. After a year at VCU she discovered her love for nutrition and human anatomy. In 2014 she transferred out of VCU to JMU where she pursued her passion for Dietetics. This will be her third year dancing as a Dukette, the official dance team at JMU. This dance team is currently ranked 1st in the Nation for the second year in a row. Sigourney has also traveled to over 20 countries around the world, which has allowed her to learn about new cultures and their day-to-day nutrition. Upon graduation, her goal is to obtain a dietetic internship and fulfill her interests in women’s health and infant nutrition.

The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act of 2015

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This summer the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA) was re-introduced into the legislative process.  It was introduced to the House on May 18th (H.R. 2404) and to the Senate on June 4th, 2015 (S.1509).   Like all bills, this one must be reported by Committee, passed by the Senate, and passed by the House before it is signed into law by the President.

 

Who does it benefit?

Medicare beneficiaries.  As the title reveals, this act targets the obesity epidemic by providing Medicare participants with increased access to weight management care.

 

What are the proposed benefits?

Coverage for weight management care. More specifically, this legislation would enable Medicare benefits to cover intensive behavioral counseling and prescription medications included in weight management therapies.

 

Who could provide the care?

Other than the primary care physician (PCP), a list of other healthcare providers would be able to provide weight management care to Medicare beneficiaries under this act.  Here is the list in the current bill:

  • Physician (other than the PCP)
  • Physician Assistant
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Registered Dietitian or Nutrition Professional
  • An evidence-based, community-based lifestyle counseling program

 

Why now? Why not earlier?

Actually, the TROA was first introduced in 2013.  Strong support was received in both the Senate and House with 121 co-sponsors.  Yet, the legislation did not make it beyond the committee level.

Between 2013-2015 only 15% of the bills that were introduced past committee.  Only 3% of all those bills introduced were actually enacted.

 

How does an idea become a law?

Here is a little refresher about the lawmaking process.  There are nine main steps:

  1. Attention to an issue. A person, group, or organization increases the awareness of an issue and brings it to the attention of a government representative.
  2. Written, submitted, and sponsored. The bill is written by the representative and submitted to the clerk to be assigned a number and printed.  At least one legislative member (from either the House or Senate) must sponsor the bill. This is when the bill is introduced to either the House or Senate.
  3. Referred to committee. The appropriate committee is assigned to the bill.
  4. Subcommittee hearings and markup. The bill is referred to several committees and subcommittees within the House or Senate. These committees vote on whether to continue moving the bill forward or to table it.
  5. Full committee action. Once the bill is approved by the subcommittees it goes back to the full committee for amendments, debate, and a vote.
  6. Full chamber action. If the committee approves the bill, then the full membership of the House or Senate debates, makes amendments, and takes a vote.
  7. Conference committee. A committee with representatives from both the House and Senate work together to resolve differences and amend the two versions of the bill that had been approved separately by both the House and Senate.
  8. Final floor action. The final version approved by the conference committee then goes back to each legislative body for a final vote.
  9. Presidential action. Finally, once the two legislative bodies have passed the bill, it is sent to the President to be signed into law.

 

To make an impact on our community, we must communicate with these policymakers.  There are many steps in which a proposed bill could be stopped and only those with great support make it through.  To stay abreast of policy proceedings that may impact you, go to www.govtrack.us/congress/bills to read about and track bills of interest.  To learn more about TROA, go to www.obesityaction.org/treat-and-reduce-obesity-act.

 

About the Author:

Devon L Golem PhD RD

Devon L. Golem, PhD, RD

Devon is the VAND Professional Education Chair and lives in Charlottesville, VA.  She is the founder and CEO of the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals.  Please email her with any questions or comments about the blog at VAND.ProfessionalEducation@gmail.com.

5 Tips for a Healthy 4th of July

Fourth of July blog

The smell of barbecue, the sounds of fireworks, and the outdoor feasts are all parts of America’s favorite holiday.  Here are five tips to help you indulge without abandoning weight management.

 

  1. Think about your drink.

Prioritize your indulgences.  Only consume calorie-filled beverages if they are really special.  Ask yourself: “Would I get a lot of pleasure out of this?”  Skip the soda, punch, and lemonade if the answer is “no”.   Some of these drinks contain 200 calories per serving.  It is really easy to mindlessly drink 3 to 4 servings…600-800 calories worth.  Drink water or iced tea instead and save the calories for food.

Some people like having a couple of alcoholic drinks.  Always drink responsibly!  Remember that these drinks have calories too.  Beers can range from 90-240 calories per 12 fl. oz. and a margarita can contain as many as 800 calories.  If watching your waistline, then opt for the low-cal beers, the sugar-free mixes, and stick to one drink.

 

  1. Don’t forget your veggies.

People eat food that is in front of them, so provide a plethora of veggies.  Everything from carrot sticks to bell pepper slices are tasty treats.  Grill eggplant and zucchini with some garlic, rosemary, and olive oil.  Try to get as many veggies in the mix as possible.  Vegetables are full of nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber.  They are filling and light.  Replace the creamy dips with guacamole, hummus, and pesto for a healthier spread.

 

  1. Meet your meat.

Grill burgers that are made with lean meat.  A 3.5 oz. beef patty is 300 calories.  Leaner choices will reduce calories and unhealthy fat content.  A lean turkey patty is around 180 calories while a 93% lean beef patty is about 150 calories.

Don’t be quick to rule out a veggie burger.  Food scientists have been hard at work to improve the flavor and texture of veggie burgers.  Some people cannot tell the difference.

 

  1. Set boundaries.

Independence Day feasts are filled with “trigger” foods.  These are foods that are mindlessly consumed in an addictive fashion.  Different people have different trigger foods, but these foods tend to be unhealthy when overconsumed.  Some examples include chips, crackers, pretzels, chocolate, cake, etc.  The best way to go about these foods is to set boundaries with yourself.  For example:

  • “All chips are off limits today.”
  • “I will have only one dessert today.”
  • “I will say ‘no’ when someone offers me a third beer. Two beers is my limit.”

 

  1. Eat the healthiest foods first.

Fill up on fruits and veggies to help fend off the drive to eat large quantities of less healthy foods.  Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.  Pay attention to feelings of hunger and fullness.  Rate your hunger from 1 (low) to 5 (painfully high).  If you are at level 1 or 2, then wait 15 minutes before putting anything in your mouth.

 

Happy 4th of July!

 

About the Author:

Devon L Golem PhD RD

 

Devon L. Golem, PhD, RD

Devon is the VAND Professional Education Chair and lives in Charlottesville, VA.  She is the founder and CEO of the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals.  Please email her with any questions or comments about the blog at VAND.ProfessionalEducation@gmail.com.

CARBS, CAFFEINE, & CRABBINESS

Have you ever heard the old adage: “You are what you eat”? Well here is another one for you, “What you eat is what you feel”! What we choose to eat and drink can affect how we feel, both physically and emotionally. A very real connection exists between nutrition and our emotional health. This should be encouraging news, because it lets us know that eating food that is good for us can also make us feel good!

Indulging, at times, in sweet and fatty foods can certainly be a part of living a wholesome life, but if we don’t make sure to balance the sweet stuff with other foods, then those foods choices can really start to have a negative effect on our bodies-both physically and emotionally.

A great example is the way that Morgan Spurlock responded to his 30-day McDonald’s challenge in the film Super Size Me. Not only did his physical health suffer, but he became fatigued and depressed.  While not all Americans eat fast food for every meal every day, this serves as a learning moment for us all. A month of extreme eating took a happy and healthy person to the point where he was just a shadow of himself emotionally.

Balance is the key here, and I want to share with you some of the areas that are most often found out of balance in our diets.

Carbohydrates with FiberBerries

Carbohydrates provide us with energy and are found in a wide variety of food. Fruits, grains, and starchy vegetables are some of the best sources of since they are also naturally high in fiber. Fiber has a lot of functions and one of them is to slow the absorption of simple carbohydrates (e.g. starch and sugar).

The slower absorption rate prevents blood sugar highs and lows. These highs and lows aren’t just referring to your blood sugar levels.  This spiking of our blood sugar mirrors the way that we can feel after eating and digesting a bunch of refined sugar and starch- we feel high and then we feel low (Sommerfield, et al., 2004).

Caffeine Kick

While caffeine can be enjoyed in a balanced way, it is good to think about it for what it is- it is a type of drug that is classified as a stimulant, and stimulants have the power to alter our moods. The adverse effects of too much caffeine can include things like jitteriness, anxiousness, an irritated stomach, and sleeplessness or poor quality of sleep (Persad, 2011).  Withdrawal from caffeine can lead to feelings of irritability and depression accompanied with headaches and even constipation (Juliano, et al., 2004).

Balancing caffeinated with non-caffeinated beverages is the key. On average, a person can have up to 400 mg of caffeine and consider themselves to be in balance, a little less than that if the person is sensitive to caffeine. To give an idea of what that translates into:

coffee-171653_1280

  • a 12 oz. caffeinated soda will typically have anywhere from 30-50 mg
  • a 6 oz. coffee typically contains 100 mg,
  • a 16 oz. a Starbucks coffee drip coffee contains about 400 mg of caffeine

 

Slowly weaning off caffeine will make the dietary transition easier and will help to avoid the worst of the withdrawal symptoms.

  1. If you have 4-5 cups of coffee a day, try cutting back to 3 cups and having one cup of decaf.
  2. Stay with that for a few days.
  3. Then step back down another step and try only having 2 cups of regular.

Once you have made your changes into a habit, you will feel better emotionally and physically and you will be happy to find yourself actually feeling more in balance than you were before.

Balance can be best described as boundary management. It is about making choices and enjoying them. It is not always something that we find, but instead is something that we can create. By keeping in mind the areas of life that are easy to let get out of balance, we can better maintain our ability to correct those areas, bringing us a sense of accomplishment, happiness and overall well-being!

 

References:

  1. Sommerfield AJ, Deary IJ, Frier BM. (2004). Acute hyperglycemia alters mood state and impairs cognitive performance in people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 10, 2335-2340. doi: 10.2337/diacare.27.10.2335
  2. Persad LA. (2011) Energy drinks and the neurophysiological impact of caffeine. Neurosci. 5, 116. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2011.00116
  3. Juliano LM, Griffiths RR. (2004). A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features. Psychopharmacology, 176, 1-29. doi: 10.1007/s00213-004-2000-x

 

Kat Huntley 2

 

Tax Credit for VA Farmers Donating Fresh Produce to VA Food Banks

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In mid-June, Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe, signed a tax credit program into law.  This program would provide a tax credit to Virginia farmers who donate fresh fruits and veggies to nonprofit food banks.

The bill was introduced in January 2016 to the House as HB 1063 and to the Senate as SB 580.  The tax credit would be equivalent to 30% of the fair market value of the crops donated without exceeding $5,000 each year.

So, in other words, Virginia farmers who choose to donate fresh fruits and vegetables (free of charge) to nonprofit food banks in Virginia will now earn about 30%  of their value (instead of 0%).   This provides a great incentive for the donation of these healthy foods that are sorely needed in food donation centers and banks.

The Department of Taxation is setting aside $250,000 for this tax credit each fiscal year.  Whatever funds are not used by the end of the year will be carried to the next.  This program is scheduled to last for five years (until January 1st, 2022).

The Federation of Virginia Food Banks is a non-profit state association of food banks and is the largest hunger-relief network in Virginia with 7 food banks in its network.  Click on each below to learn more and get involved in your community.

Blue Ridge Area Food Bank                                                 https://www.brafb.org/

Capital Area Food Bank                                                        https://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/

Fredericksburg Area Food Bank                                         http://www.fredfood.org/

Feeding America Southwest Virginia                                https://www.faswva.org/

FeedMore, Inc. (a.k.a. Central Virginia Food Bank)      https://feedmore.org/

Foodbank of Southeaster Virginia                                     http://www.foodbankonline.org/

Virginia Peninsula Foodbank                                             http://www.hrfoodbank.org/

Author: Devon L. Golem, PDevon L Golem PhD RDhD, RD is the new VAND Professional Education Chair.  She is originally a Californian, but has lived in many states.  She has been an RD since 2003 and has worked in a variety of settings with many different patients.  She earned her PhD in both Nutritional and Exercise Sciences from Rutgers University.  She has since worked in academia as a department chair and a dietetics program director.  She is now the founder of the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals which aims to enhance the expertise of nutrition professionals through engaging education.

 

Summer Zucchini Pasta Recipe

SummerZucchiniPasta

With summer well on its way, I thought it would be great to share one of my favorite recipes: Summer Zucchini Pasta.  This easy-to-make recipe is perfect for a summer dinner.  Serve hot or cold, this pasta is full of flavor and fiber.

You will need:

A large frying pan, a butcher knife, a cutting board, a large bowl, a small bowl, a sieve or strainer, a handheld juicer, tongs, a vegetable spaghetti maker (check out these: Home-it Spiralizer or Vegetti)

(No conflict of interest exists. The products in this post are mentioned solely for exemplification, not for commercial endorsement or marketing purposes.)

 

Ingredients:

3 to 4 large zucchini

1 large red bell pepper

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 lemon

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp ginger powder (fresh grated ginger can be used instead)

salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Wash the zucchini, bell pepper, and lemon thoroughly.
  2. Slice the top (1/4 inch) of the bell pepper off to expose the seed grouping.  Cut the flesh (a.k.a. ribs) that attaches the seed grouping to the inner walls of the pepper. Remove and discard the entire seed grouping. (This part is edible, but many find it too bitter and spicy.)
  3. Slice the pepper in half lengthwise before slicing into strips about 1/2 inch thick.  Set aside in a small bowl.
  4. Cut the ends off of the zucchini.  Place into spiralizer and twist to make zucchini spaghetti.  Do this over the large bowl.  When complete, cut the pile of zucchini spaghetti in half by moving the knife in one direction across the center of the bowl.  This makes the pieces of spaghetti more manageable.
  5. Transfer the sliced peppers into the bowl with the zucchini.  Add the garlic and ginger.
  6. Cut the lemon in half.  Place the strainer over the noodles and use the handheld juicer to juice the lemon.  The strainer will catch the seeds.
  7. Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to the zucchini and mix all the ingredients with your clean hands or tongs.  Make sure that the garlic and ginger are well mixed to avoid clumps.
  8. Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat.  When the olive oil easily coats the bottom of the pan, add the zucchini mix and start cooking.  Toss with the tongs every few minutes to ensure all parts are cooked.  Cook for 10-15 minutes (depending on the heat of your stove).  Cook to desired consistency (al dente to limp).
  9. Serve immediately or place in the fridge.

 

Enjoy this healthy and delicious treat!

Author: Devon L. Golem, PDevon L Golem PhD RDhD, RD is the new VAND Professional Education Chair.  She is originally a Californian, but has lived in many states.  She has been an RD since 2003 and has worked in a variety of settings with many different patients.  She earned her PhD in both Nutritional and Exercise Sciences from Rutgers University.  She has since worked in academia as a department chair and a dietetics program director.  She is now the founder of the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals which aims to enhance the expertise of nutrition professionals through engaging education.

 

Introducing VAND’s New Professional Education Chairperson!

Welcome to Dr. Devon Golem, who will be replacing Kristen Chang and Wendy Phillips as VAND’s Professional Education Chairperson for the 2016-2017 membership year!

 

DevonDr. Devon Golem is the founder of the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals (www.icenp.org) and lives in Charlottesville, VA.  She has experience as an educator, researcher, clinician, and nutrition counselor.  She served as the Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at New Mexico State University until May 2016.  She has completed research and published on many nutrition-related topics including sleep and obesity, dietary strategies and behavior, weight bias, food insecurity, household food supply and emergency preparedness, and childhood obesity.  Dr. Golem earned her PhD in nutritional sciences with an emphasis in exercise science from Rutgers University.  She became an RD in 2003 and has worked in clinical, community, and research settings.  Dr. Golem is extremely passionate about professional education in our field and is excited to serve as the Professional Education Chair for VAND 2016-2018.

If you are interested in publishing on the VAND blog or presenting a webinar, please email her at VAND.ProfessionalEducation@gmail.com.

“To gain and maintain expertise, we must keep learning.”  Devon Golem, PhD, RD

Loudoun County’s Farm to School Program Named “One in a Melon”

Voted Top Farm to School Program in Virginia!

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service recently awarded Loudoun County Public Schools a “One in a Melon” award for administering an exemplary Farm to School program.  One school district per state was selected for the award by receiving the most public nominations.

From March 15 – April 15, parents, teachers, community stakeholders, and students were invited to visit USDA’s Farm to School Census website and nominate their favorite Farm to School program to receive the award.  According to the Census, 57% of Virginia school districts say they participate in Farm to School activities — That’s 68 districts with 1,319 schools and 886,775 students! A total of 5,254 school districts participate across the United States.

Farm to School programs help kids form healthy habits, learn where their food comes from, and develop an understanding of the importance of nutrition and agriculture.   Results of the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census show that schools with robust farm to school programs report reductions in food waste, higher school meal participation rates, and increased willingness of the students to try new foods, notably fruits and vegetables.  Census results also show that U.S. schools invested nearly $800 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers in the 2013- 2014 school year, which is money going directly back into local communities.

Teresa_Lucas

 

Teresa Lucas, DTR is the incoming NVAND President, and she works for the Loudon County Public Schools as an Operations Specialist.

FDA Announces Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label

LabelAmericans are faced with a smorgasbord of foods, eating venues, and endless “advice” from television, the Internet, and (sometimes questionable) “experts” so it can be difficult for a person to determine which foods are the healthiest to eat. Many consumers, especially those looking to lose weight, have looked on the packages of foods in the grocery store to find the calorie, fat content, carbohydrate grams, sodium content, etc. as they make their purchasing decisions — but these labels have often been confusing and list nutrients with smaller serving sizes than people normally eat. With the link between Americans’ dietary habits and chronic disease becoming clearer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has responded to stakeholder input, including that of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to update the requirements for the food label.

The iconic look of the food label that has been in use for over 20 years will remain the same, but there will be several changes in response to Americans’ dietary needs and eating habits. Expect to see the new food labels within the next few years: large manufacturers have until July 26, 2018 to make the changes, while small manufacturers get an extra year to make the changes. Here is a brief look at some of the changes, and you can learn more on the EatrightPro website here.

What is newly required?

  • Actual amounts of the nutrients have to be included in addition to the % daily value (%DV).
    • For example, Calcium would be listed as 260 mg and 20% DV.
  • Vitamin D and Potassium must be listed on the new labels. Calcium and iron continue to be required.
  • Added sugars must be included and expressed in grams and %DV.
    • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10% of overall calories.
  • Serving size must be more realistic with what people are actually eating, not what they should be eating.
    • For example, a 12 oz can of soda is now considered 1 serving instead of 1.5 servings, since most people drink the whole can at one time.
    • A serving of ice cream is now 2/3 cups, not ½ cup.
    • Some packages will have dual columns, with the amount per container or package, and the amount per serving.

What is no longer required?

  • Calories from fat is no longer required since the type of fat is more important than the quantity when decreasing the risk for chronic disease.
    • Trans fat, saturated fat, and total fat must still be listed.
  • Vitamin A and C can still be listed, but are no longer required on the label.

The explanation of % Daily Value is also changing.

  • Old wording for % DV:
    “Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.”
  • New wording for %DV:
    “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.”

The NutritiPoweradeon Facts label of the beverage shown here will be different in many ways when the new regulations take effect. Since most people will drink the entire bottle at one time, the nutrient information will need to be listed per 32 fluid ounce container size, rather than the current listing of nutrients per 12 fluid oz serving (2.5 servings per bottle). This will make it easier for consumers to realize they are drinking 200 calories, not 80 as some may currently think. Out of the 21 grams of sugars listed, it will have to indicate how many of those are Added Sugars (versus naturally occurring sugars such as in fruits or dairy).

Although we won’t know for several years if these changes will make a difference on Americans’ eating habits, the updated label will certainly make nutrition information easier and quicker to understand. Future educational campaigns can help consumers understand the Nutrition Facts Panel and make healthful choices when shopping. This is one more “tool in the toolbox” to help Americans decrease our risk for chronic disease through good nutrition and lifestyle habits.

Janelle and Wendy
Wendy Phillips, MS, RD, CNSC, CLE, FAND is a Division Director of Nutrition Support for Morrison Healthcare. She is the Policy & Advocacy Leader for the Clinical Nutrition Management Dietetic Practice Group for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and helps the public understand the impact of nutrition-related legislation on their health.

Janelle Walker, MBA, CLE, is a lifestyle educator for Kaiser Permanente. Janelle works with Kaiser members, families and consumers to help them adopt healthy lifestyle habits.