The nutrition facts panel reveals a more user-friendly makeover

The Nutrition Facts Panel will soon be revealing a fresh face with much anticipated and necessary changes coming soon to this nutrition information panel required on most packaged and boxed foods in the Unites States.  The Food and Drug Administration has been involved with this laborious process of developing changes by consulting with and using recommendations from nutrition groups such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The current Nutrition Facts Panel has remained relatively the same since 1993.   This transition   occurring over the next two to three years is a welcomed modification that will better assist consumers in understanding the nutrition message they can apply to making healthy food choices.  When the general public has a better idea of interpreting the Nutrition Facts Panel, this can reflect on individuals making smarter decisions on choosing foods to fit their lifestyles and health needs.

Here are the changes you will see:

·         Serving size

One complaint that has been made for quite some time is that the serving sizes currently shown on the Nutrition Facts Panel is not in line nor reflects what typically is eaten in reality. 

For instance, currently the serving size on a 12-ounce beverage will say it is 8-ounces.  Yet how many of us only drink 8 ounces and consume the other 4 ounces the next day?  The new Nutrition Facts Panel will now state that a 12-ounce beverage serving size is actually 12-ounces. 

This change is more realistic with what people actually are consuming for a serving size making it easier to do the math on figuring how many calories or other nutrition information they may be looking for.

·         Nutrients and ingredients

Listing the amount of vitamins A and C will be removed from the Nutrition Facts Label.  The reason for this change is because the vast majority of Americans are not deficient in these nutrients and we have access to good food choices containing these vitamins.

Two important nutrients that will be consistently listed are vitamin D and potassium.  Many Americans are lacking these two key nutrients which are important for bone health and maintaining a healthy heart.

The listing of added sugars has been a contentious sore spot on the current Nutrition Facts Label as it does not state exactly how much sugar is added to a food product.  The new label will have a separate line stating “added sugars” listed as an indented sub-item under “total sugars.”  This change gives consumers a better idea and understanding of how much sugar is added to a product and how much sugar is what naturally occurs in the food. 

·         Percent of Daily Values

The listing of the percent Daily Values (DV) is another area of confusion for many individuals.  The DVs are simply a guide to the nutrients in a serving of food.  For example, if the label lists 15 percent for calcium, it means that one serving provides 15 percent of the calcium you need each day.

The DVs are based on the average amount of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories a day and are meant for the entire day and not just for one meal or snack. 

A very helpful way to use the DVs to your advantage is to remember to choose foods with high DVs – 20 percent or more – for vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, potassium, or iron that many of us tend to be lacking in.  By the same token, to reduce intake of foods high in sugars and sodium, look for DVs of 5 percent or less of these items. 

This makeover of the Nutrition Facts Panel is a much needed boost giving consumers a more broad understanding and usage of this valuable tool in making healthy food choices.  If the general public embraces this new look and uses it to their advantage, it’ll be a win-win for all of us.