Introduction to the New Food Label

Last year, you probably saw first lady Michele Obama all over the news, talking about the changes to the food label. Dietitians everywhere had been waiting for years for some of the changes to be made and saw the changes as a victory. Consumers who have been confused for years about sugars and carbs may have even been doing backflips.

No more comparing the food label and ingredient lists to see if and where the sugars are. Yeah!  But, these changes won’t go into effect until July 26, 2018, so we’ll have to keep using them for a while longer.

As Health and Wellness Coaches, it is important to be familiar with these changes so that you can get clients ready for the transition when it happens. So it’s important to really understand how to use the label as an educational tool in nutritional coaching.

Old Food Label vs. New Food Label

Let’s take a minute to compare the 2 food labels:

  1. The serving size is now more prominent – and reflect the serving size that people actually eat
  2. The calories are much more prevalent and larger in font than even the Nutrition Facts themselves
  3. The carbohydrate breakdown now includes and separates the added sugars from the total sugars (naturally occurring)
  4. The required vitamin and minerals now reflect those that Americans either do not get enough or get too much of
  5. Calories from fat is no longer on the labels

Food Label Old and New

Image Credit: FDA

The FDA has created a document that highlights some of the major changes:

FDA Food Ingredients Packaging Labeling PDF

Rationale & Benefits of the Changes

Key Benefit: Greater Transparency into Added Sugars & Reflects The Evidence-Base About Sugars

One of the biggest changes that we referenced earlier is the clarification of the amount of added sugars. There’s no more “guessing games” for the consumer to wonder about and be surprised by with the new food label format.

We can easily see from the comparison above that 1 g sugars (old label) vs. the actual 12 grams and 10 grams added sugars (new label) could pose a huge problem for someone with diabetes. Making it easier to watch their added sugars and total carbohydrate can help them manage their condition.

Using the new label for the same product, that person will now have much greater insight into both the total sugars and added sugars. This empowers their decision making for condition management and compliance with medical nutrition therapy.

According to the FDA, scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total calories from added sugar. This is consistent with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The change will allow people who are watching their calories to ensure they are not getting too much added sugar.

Other Benefits:

List of Nutrients Required to Be Declared Changed

What’s new? Vitamin D and potassium are now required, since research shows many Americans have trouble getting appropriate amounts of these 2 micronutrients. “Calories from fat” is being removed since research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount itself.

Calcium and iron will continue to be required, as research shows many Americans have trouble getting appropriate amounts of these minerals. However, Vitamins A & C will no longer be required.

Serving Sizes Now Reflect What People Actually Eat – Or Drink

According to the FDA, by law serving sizes must be based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating. This has been a huge source of confusion for consumers, as many people don’t drink a portion of their soda, for example. The reference amount for soda is changing from 8 ounces (what those who created the label and those of us who work in health! want people to consume) to 12 ounces (what people actually consume). And, if you’ve ever seen the movie Supersize Me – or familiar with the term “supersize” at fast food restaurants, you know that how much people eat and drink have changed since the previous serving size requirements were published in 1993.

Since package size also affects what people eat, the reference point for the calories and nutrients will be what people typically consume in one sitting. For example, packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20 ounce soda or a 15-ounce can of soup will be one serving since people typically consume the entire soda bottle or can of soup at one sitting.

Here is a sampling of some of the serving size changes:

Image Credit: FDA

This content and more in-depth nutrition information and working with clients is covered in our Nutrition Course. This course is one of six required for Certification.

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