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.

Making Food Dollars Stretch: A Family Affair!

Last week I went grocery shopping at my favorite “big box” market, and once again I winced as I watched the total click higher and the printed receipt get longer. The printed tape makes it even more difficult to deny that the cost of food has skyrocketed over the past few years. My family of four, including two athletic teenage (hence HUNGRY!) boys, started to notice the price creep higher first on the foods that we regularly bought in the stores that we shopped at the most frequently, and it became a game to try to guess the final total price while we waited in line to pay. We certainly took notice of an increase of fifty cents per pound of meat, one pound of strawberries that used to cost two dollars now costing three dollars, and one pounds of grapes all of a sudden costing almost four dollars, even in the summer time! Feeding two growing adolescent boys was getting more expensive by the week. Now, we can’t get out of a grocery store for less than $300 for one week’s worth of groceries, and it seems the shopping basket is a little lighter each time.

Hard economic times can force families to consider their grocery budget a little more carefully, cutting out “extras” and skipping restaurants; the good thing is, this can often lead us to eating a healthier diet with smaller portions. Shopping with less food dollars requires more planning, including budgeting and deciding on a menu for the week, but this usually keeps the “extras” such as chips, cookies, candies, sodas, and other sweetened beverages from finding their way into the cart. As family members start to eat healthier, portion sizes may decrease, saving money on the grocery or dining out bill, and maybe even leading to weight loss.

If you need to make your food dollars stretch, involve your whole family in the process.

  • Take the cookbRed Dress Day 2014 008ooks off the kitchen shelf, look through smartphone apps such as Food.com or the Food Network app, or browse through magazines and TV shows to get recipes and meal ideas. Invite your children to pick a new recipe to help avoid the monotony that can happen at dinnertime.
  • Create a monthly calendar that is printed and pinned to the refrigerator or kitchen bulletin board. Plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each family member a week at a time. Knowing what foods you will need for the week minimizes the number of trips to the grocery store (where it’s always tempting to buy more than you need!) and prevents after-work trips through the fast food drive through because “there’s nothing to eat at home.”
  • “Eat down the pantry and the refrigerator.” We often have several different ingredients already in stock at home; have your spouse help you create a meal using only the ingredients that you have already. Be sure to check the expiration dates on the foods; use the First-in First-out method when putting your groceries away in the pantry (foods already in the pantry move to the front of the shelf and the newer foods are placed behind.)
  • Have your school age children make a shopping list from recipes they want to try or meals they know they will like, double-checking the pantry and refrigerator for items already on-hand. Wasted food is decreased when everyone likes what’s served!
  • Avoid being a “short order cook.” Cooking the same meals for the whole family generates less leftovers, encourages each family member to possibly try new foods, and saves time and energy in the kitchen by the “chef.”
  • Choose healthy, low-cost foods that can be used in more than one dish in the same week.
  • “Base” ingredients include foods like whole grain bread, skim or 1% milk, chicken breasts, romaine lettuce or spinach, and frozen vegetables. These foods can be used in a variety of recipes, are generally cheaper than other foods, and don’t spoil as quickly.
  • At the grocery store, shop the perimeter of the store first, stocking up on fresh produce and meats while avoiding the more expensive processed items that are most often found on the interior shelves of the store. Invite the kids or your spouse to go grocery shopping with you; it might at first seem like a difficult distraction, but family members who are more engaged with the selection of groceries will likely be more willing and adventurous eaters.
  • Making food dollars stretch can be a learning opportunity for the kids. Kids can use their math skills to determine the price per serving of various food items to determine which package is the best value. Remember, buying in bulk is not always the best investment if some of the package goes to waste.
  • Copy the children when taking your lunch to work: buy yourself a cute reusable lunch box or container that makes you want to take your foods to the office refrigerator.
  • Have the center of focus during meals be family time, not the quantity of food. Pleasant conversation can help you eat slowly and let your body be satisfied naturally by smaller portions.
  • Start a conversation at work about healthy shopping or food budgets, or even just eating smaller portions. You might be able to glean a tip or two from your co-workers on how they make their own food dollars stretch!

Other tips:

  • Shop the supermarket weekly ads for special sales or coupon items, and build your week’s meals around what’s on sale. If you are unsure of how to cook these foods or incorporate them into your meal plan, check the Internet or cookbooks for recipes or ask the grocery store manager for hints.
  • Look in the “markdown” bin of your grocery store; each section of the store seems to have foods on sale that are nearing the expiration date or are on overstock clearance. Ask the store manager what day of the week these “markdowns” are usually taken. Just be sure that you will use it quickly before it expires!
  • Buy frozen foods on sale, as these usually keep longer and still retain their nutritional value.
    When making large meals, freeze the leftovers to enjoy later in the week. Prioritize using the leftovers within a few days.
  • Try re-purposing leftovers: use extra meat and rice from dinner in breakfast burritos the next morning or send left over salad in your family’s lunch the next afternoon.

Remember, these are YOUR healthier habits, so make them work for you!

Janelle and Wendy

Janelle Walker, MBA, CLE is a lifestyle educator for Kaiser Permanente, with a special interest in helping families learn to live healthy together through nutrition, exercise, and other healthy habits.

Wendy Phillips, MS, RD, CNSC, CLE, FAND is a Division Director of Clinical Nutrition for Morrison Healthcare, with a background in pediatric nutrition and desire to help kids grow up healthy!