If you’ve turned over your box of cereal (or carton of oat milk) recently, you may have noticed that the nutrition facts label looks a little different. And if it doesn’t, it will soon.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in 2016 that all nutrition labels would require an update to reflect the latest scientific evidence on maintaining a healthy diet. They gave manufacturers who sell more than $10 million in food each year until 2020 to adopt the changes; those who sell less than that have until 2021.
Some companies have already instituted the new label, so there’s a good chance you’ve already seen it (in fact, we’ve already adopted the new label here at Freshly!).
The new nutrition label is a big deal since it hasn’t been updated in 30 years, says Brooke Scheller, DCN, MS. “All of the changes reflect a more accurate representation of how people actually eat and take into account advances in nutrition,” she explains.
Here, we break down the changes so you can make smarter food choices at the grocery store.
The most noticeable change is bigger font for the serving size and calories. On top of that, serving sizes have been altered to reflect how people really eat.
“Previously, companies could make products seem healthier by giving the nutrition information for unrealistically small servings,” says Scheller.
Now, the label reflects how you actually eat (i.e., two scoops of ice cream versus just a half cup). Don’t worry: This doesn’t affect your Freshly meals—they’ve always been listed as one portion and one serving.
An updated nutrients section
The new label swaps out nutrients Americans already get enough of (vitamins A and C) for ones that many of us are deficient in (vitamin D and potassium). “Vitamin D is important for your overall health so shifting focus makes it easier for you to seek it out,” says Scheller. “You can find vitamin D in foods like fish, mushrooms, and egg yolks.”
Potassium is another new kid on the label. It helps support healthy blood pressure and sodium balance (which is why we use potassium-rich foods in many of our meals!).
Potassium-rich foods include many fruits and veggies, like tomatoes, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, avocados, bananas, and more. Calcium and iron are still on the new label so that you can make sure you’re getting enough of those, too.
Changes to daily value percentages
These updates are less obvious if you don’t know to look for them. Based on recent nutrition and health research, the FDA has tweaked their macronutrient recommendations—fats increase from 65 to 78 grams per day, fiber is upped slightly from 25 to 28 grams, and the recommendation for carbs drops from 300 to 275 grams (based on a 2,000 calorie diet).
In other words, you might notice daily value percentages change on the labels of foods you regularly eat, but that doesn’t mean anything has changed nutritionally.
A better breakdown of added vs. natural sugar
The new label shows exactly how much sugar in a product is added (versus naturally-occurring sugars found in fruits and veggies). This is important since the FDA recommends that people consume less than 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugars.
“Cut sugar where you can,” advises Scheller. “But when you do need a touch of sweetness, opt for natural sweeteners like honey, which is what we do at Freshly.”
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