The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced last week an update to the Nutrition Facts label for packaged and processed foods. First Lady (and nutritionist-in-chief) Michelle Obama sees the importance of the changes:
“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,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “So this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families all across this country.”
It’s hard to see much of a difference between the current and proposed labels.
Here is the current label:
Here is the proposed new label:
Most of the information on both labels is identical. The number of servings per package, calories per serving, and the serving size are more prominent on the new labels. And vitamin D and potassium seem to be more relevant to nutritional health these days than vitamins A and C. The most important change to the labels — the addition of “added sugars” — got Lisa Leake’s attention:
Sugar itself is not necessarily the devil, but the quantity in which it’s typically consumed is a problem when it comes to our health. And it’s easy to overlook because sugar is no longer just reserved for sweets but rather added to everything these days including bread, crackers, yogurt, salad dressings, cereals, beverages, and so on.
So on occasion, if I do see some form of added sugar spelled out on the ingredient label I like to know exactly how much it contains. For example, I wanted to purchase some smoked salmon the other day and was surprised to see brown sugar on the ingredient list. But when I looked at the grams of sugar per serving it was less than 1 gram, so I knew it contained very little sugar (and therefore I purchased it).
But the “Sugars” listing on the current Nutrition Facts Label does have one major flaw. If you were considering buying a product like flavored yogurt, which is made from milk obviously and therefore has naturally occurring sugar, there is no way to separate how many of the grams of sugar are from the milk versus the refined added sugar to give the yogurt it’s flavor. So that’s why I am super excited to see this proposed change that I would refer to on occasion…
Leake doesn’t pay much attention to the Nutrition Facts label. Instead, it’s all about the ingredient list:
Reading the ingredient label is the number one way to know what’s in your packaged food and how processed it is.
I have never been one to count calories, fat grams and the like, and one of the reasons for that is – and hopefully we can all agree – not all calories or fat grams are created equal! Please don’t let anyone try to tell you an avocado is just as “bad for you” as a donut just because they both have 21 grams of fat.
Same goes for calories – a pack of Skittles has about the same number of calories as 2 cups of organic grapes. Clearly those two are not even close to being equivalent when it comes to eating whole foods for good health. I would also say that considering grams of naturally occurring sugars vs. added sugars falls into the same category as well. And these are all the “facts” pointed out to us on the Nutrition Facts Label!
Lisa Leake has the avocado vs. donut visual here.