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An Overview of the Updated Nutrition Label

February 8, 2021

By the Duke Lifestyle & Weight Management Center Nutrition Team

The nutrition label you are used to seeing is more than twenty years old, so it is certainly time for an update! In an effort to give consumers the information they need to make more informed decisions about the food they purchase and consume, the FDA has decided to update the current label. While the “iconic” look of the label will remain the same, the update includes a refreshed design to give consumers more realistic and health-focused information.

At the Duke Lifestyle & Weight Management Center, our registered Dieticians work with patients on how to read and interpret food labels (because they can be so confusing). They also help them prioritize the most important information in order to make an informed and conscious decision to purchase (or not purchase) a food item and help them understand why there are different label styles in the marketplace right now.

Here’s an overview of the changes:

The nutrition label you are used to seeing is more than 20 years old – so it is certainly time for an update!

1. Servings and serving sizes are now in larger and bolder fonts

When selecting a food item, you may decide how much to eat or compare two items based on the serving size. With the update, you can now see this information more clearly and also have a more realistic value for the standard serving. The serving sizes listed on the label have been updated to reflect the amounts of food and drink that people typically consume. Have you ever enjoyed a snack bag of popcorn and realized after you ate the whole bag that the label indicated it actually contains three servings? With this update you are more likely to now see that same label indicate information for one normal serving instead, assuming the average person will likely consume the whole bag.

2. Calories are also in larger and bolder fonts

The calories in a food item are also something you look at when making a decision to purchase or consume a certain food. Now, the number of calories in each serving will be bigger and bolder to make it easier to find and see on the label. Remember, for a healthy snack aim, for an item with 200 calories or less!

3. “Calories from Fat” has been removed

Research now suggests that the type of fat (versus the calories from fat) is more important for health benefits. The label continues to break down the type of fats (saturated and trans fat) but removes the listing of the total calories from fat. The Dietary Reference Intake suggests fat intake be limited to 20-35% of total calories. And if you are still curious about the total calories you are getting from fat, simply multiply the total grams of fat by nine! You can find more information about types of fats here.

4. The total amount of “Added Sugars” has been added

Added sugars can be a part of a healthy diet, but if consumed in excess it can lead to negative health consequences such as weight gain, increased risk of heart disease, and diabetes. Expert groups such as the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization agree to recommend decreasing the intake of added sugar. In addition, dietary guidelines suggest aiming for 10% or less of total calories from added sugars. Added sugars are defined as either added during the processing of food or packaged (i.e., a bag of table sugar), and also include sugars from syrups and honey and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices. For more information on added sugars click here.

5. Altered nutrients listed

The daily values of Vitamin A and Vitamin C are no longer going to be reported on the label. In today’s time, deficiencies in these nutrients are rare and, thus, no longer need to be tracked. However, Vitamin D and Potassium are being added to the % daily value (%DV) as it’s been identified that Americans don’t always get enough of these nutrients. Vitamin D is important for bone health and Potassium helps lower blood pressure. Aim to get more of these nutrients by choosing fatty fish, bananas, oranges and milk.

6. Footnote

The footnote at the bottom of the label has changed to better explain the meaning of %DV. The %DV helps you understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet. Remember, the %DV is meant for the general population and is based on a 2,000-calorie diet. So the percentages listed are not an exact amount based on your individualized calorie intake.

When can you plan to see the new changes? Many manufacturers have already begun implementing the new look. The official guidelines state that “Manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual sales made the switch to the new label on January 1, 2020; manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales had until January 1, 2021, to comply.”  In addition, don’t forget that raw fruits, vegetables, fish, and some small business products are exempt from the requirement to provide nutrition facts so those items will likely be missing this information.

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About the Duke Lifestyle & Weight Management Center

The Duke Lifestyle and Weight Management Center has helped people achieve a life of health and wellness for more than 50 years. Our comprehensive approach to obesity treatment, weight loss, and lifestyle change will give you the tools you need to lead an active, fulfilling, and healthy life.

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