Are you ready for a reality check about how many calories you’re eating or drinking? The proposed new nutrition facts are here to help. The information was released recently by the Obama administration. The most visible change is that calorie counts are bigger and bolder - to give them greater emphasis. In addition, serving sizes are starting to reflect the way most of us really eat. Take, for example, ice cream. The current serving size is a half-cup. But who eats that little? Under the proposed new label, the serving size would become 1 cup. So, when you scoop a bowl of mint chocolate chip, the calorie count that you see on the label will probably be much closer to what you’re actually eating.
Another example: A 20-ounce bottle of soda would be labeled as one serving. And with that, the calorie count at the top will come closer to reality. Another signature change: The new panel will include a separate line for added sugars. This is aimed at helping consumers distinguish between the sugars that are naturally found in foods (such as the sugar in raisins found in cereal) from the refined sugars that food manufactures add to their products.
The proposed new label makes a slight tweak to sodium labeling, by making a small downward revision in daily values for sodium. It’s a step in the right direction,” says Michael Jacobsen of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. He points to the link between excess salt consumption and heart disease, so you may be asking why these changes now? To help address obesity, one of the most important public health problems facing our country, the proposed label would drive attention to calories and serving sizes, in a release by Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods. And as part of the streaming efforts, the label would cut out labeling of calories from fat. This is, in part, a reflection of the fact that there are good fats and bad fats. The fat-free thinking that so swept the country in the 1990’s, when the original nutrition facts panel was introduced, has given way to much more nuanced thinking about fats.
The dual column labels will indicate both per serving and per package calorie and nutrition information for larger packages that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings. Most of the population is not getting enough Vitamin D, which is important for bone health. Vitamin A and C would no longer be required on the label. The daily Values have also been changed. Values are used to calculate the percent Daily Value on the label, which helps consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet while continuing to require Total Fat, Saturated Fat and Trans Fat on the label. Calories from Fat would be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount. Hopefully this change will be equally as important ensuring that any changes ultimately serve to inform, and not confuse, consumers.
For more information contact Lethia Lee, EFNEP Assistant with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at 910-592-7161.