Teaching an Old Nutrition Label New Tricks

New Nutrition LabeThe Food and Drug Administration’s iconic nutrition labels could be changing for the first time in more than 20 years, and that’s a good thing according to Memorial Medical Center registered dietitians Gayle Jennings and Christina Rollins. The new label will list total calories more prominently, add long-ignored nutrients like potassium and vitamin D, reconfigure the serving size calculations and include added sugars to the tally. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The new label will be more user-friendly for those following dietary guidelines.
  • Serving sizes will be displayed more accurately, enabling consumers to avoid “super-sizing” their food items.
  • Potassium and vitamin D, both of which offer important health benefits, will be listed on the new label in order to draw attention.
  • Added sugars will now be listed so consumers will know how much sugar is naturally occurring and how much is commercially added.

The added-sugar part of the new label was of particular interest to the food and nutrition experts.

Christina Rollins said she believes managing sugar intake will be much easier for consumers with the new label system.

“Don’t worry about limiting ‘total sugars’ as many foods contain natural sugar like bananas, berries, milk and yogurt,” Rollins said. “Instead, try to avoid ‘added sugars,’ which indicate the food item has been commercially sweetened.”

Gayle Jennings said she is hopeful that increased attention to portion size will help many who are struggling to regulate their food intake.

“If we continue to indulge, then our bodies get used to these portions,” she said. She suggested the following:

  • Get out the measuring cups.
  • Pour a bowl of cereal.
  • Measure what you have poured and compare it to the recommended serving size.
  • Prepare to be amazed at how small a serving size can be.

Better educating consumers is the main motivation behind the FDA’s label changes, but it will still be up to the individual to make the healthy choice – reaching for the banana instead of the banana-chocolate-chip muffins.