This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new requirements for nutrition labels on packaged foods — ultimately changing the information presented to make it more helpful for consumers. With the help of First Lady Michelle Obama at the unveiling, this announcement marks the first time in more than 20 years that the label has been updated.

While the actual labels will mostly look the same, there are a few key additions and changes that were made to help consumers make healthier decisions.

What’s different about the labels?

  • The “calorie count,” “serving size” and “services per container” fields are highlighted by a larger font and bold typeface.
  • The footnote is updated to better explain what the “percent daily value” means according to a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet.
  • The actual amount of Vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium are shown, in addition to the percent daily value, because research shows Americans need these nutrients to avoid certain chronic diseases and may not be getting enough of them.
  • “Saturated” and “trans fat” totals remain, but “calories from fat” is removed, because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.
  • The “serving size” is updated to show the amount of food and beverages that people are actually eating, rather than what they should be eating – and these measurements are now more realistically based on what people eat at one sitting — there are also dual columns for per serving and per package.
  • Underneath the newly delineated “total sugars” line, “added sugars” is included in grams and as a percent daily value.

Why is “added sugar” now on the label?

Perhaps the biggest change for consumers is the chance to see how many grams of “added sugars” are featured in packaged foods. In fact, health and nutrition groups have gotten behind the new labeling requirement citing the need to call attention to this extra sugar that manufacturers put in food to make it taste good.

Research shows that it is hard to meet your daily nutritional needs within calorie requirements if you are consuming more than 10 percent of your totally daily calories from added sugars, which are not naturally occurring in food. And 50 grams of added sugars is the maximum suggested limit. Displaying the fact that an average can of soda has more than 60 grams of added sugars and is way beyond someone’s daily limit is meant to encourage Americans to make better (and more informed) food decisions.

When will these changes take place?

Food manufacturers will need to use the new labels by July 26, 2018, but smaller food manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales have until 2019 to make changes to their labels. Check out the full FDA Nutrition Label report for more.

Three tips to cut back on sugar

Overall, this announcement marks good news for the average American, giving us easier access to details on the food that we are putting into our bodies.

But you don’t have to wait until the new labels come out in two years to cut back on sugar. Here are three ways you can reduce sugar in your diet today …

  1. Make a swap. Fruit juices, energy drinks, enhanced waters and store-bought smoothies are all loaded with sugar. Try switching out at least one of these drinks a day with plain water, or water infused with mint or cucumber.
  2. Spice it up. Instead of adding sugar or sweeteners to your coffee, oatmeal or baked goods, trying adding spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger for a flavor kick. You’ll likely learn to love the change in flavors.
  3. Pick protein and fat. By eating more nuts, seeds, avocados, salmon and organic lean meats at every meal, you’ll be satisfied and fuller longer and able to say no to processed carbs containing a lot of sugar like white bread, as well as say no sugary sweets like candy and cookies.

Photo credit: Copyright iStock – Twinsterphoto. 

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