If you’ve ever gone cross-eyed trying to read a nutrition label on your food, you’re in luck. In February the Food & Drug Administration unveiled some significant changes to the labels that are intended to reduce confusion about what’s healthy and what isn’t.
The proposed changes — which are the first significant ones in over twenty years — were presented by First Lady Michelle Obama, who said, “Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family.”
Here’s a breakdown of some of the major changes we could see:
- Updated serving sizes: According to the FDA, serving sizes should reflect the amount of food people typically eat, as opposed to what they “should” eat. If you’ve ever checked out the label on a pint of ice cream, you know what they mean — the serving size is usually half a cup, significantly less than the amount the average person consumes.
The updated labels would give nutrition information based on a more representative serving size, and would also more clearly present the amount of calories in the total package (just in case you eat that entire pint!).
- Added sugars: The new nutrition labels would tell consumers the amount of added sugars in a food product. According to ChooseMyPlate.gov, added sugars are “sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk and fruits.”
The current food labels list the total grams of sugar in a product but do not differentiate between naturally occurring and added sugars.
- More prominent calorie counts: The proposed new format puts the number of calories in a significantly larger font size so you can’t miss it. This is important because of the connection between calories consumed and the number on the scale. Encouraging people to eat the right amount of calories for their bodies is key to fighting the obesity epidemic.
- Inclusion of potassium and Vitamin D: As some Americans aren’t getting enough of these nutrients—which play a vital role in lowering blood pressure and improving bone density, respectively—these would now be required on food labels.
- No more Calories from Fat: According to the FDA, research shows that the type of fat—saturated, unsaturated, or trans—is more important than the amount; therefore, the “Calories from Fat” part of the label would be removed.
The FDA is currently accepting public comment on the proposed changes, after which it will issue a final rule. If the changes are adopted, it could be at least a year before the new labels appear on grocery store shelves.
What do you think of the proposed changes to food labels? Will they help you make healthier choices?