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Understanding the New Nutrition Label

November 15, 2019

For the first time in more than 20 years, nutrition labels are getting an overhaul

When it comes to healthier eating, one of the biggest components is moderation. “It’s almost always overlooked,” says Michael Atanasio, director of Food & Nutrition at Overlook Medical Center. “From a food perspective, we’ve come to expect that bigger is better, but that’s not the case.”

In the new year, it may be easier to make moderation more of a focus. Over the next couple of months, you’ll notice that the nutrition labels on packaged foods have been given a makeover. The FDA’s new labeling requirements better align with the needs and real-life eating habits of today’s consumers, and will make it easier for consumers to make better-informed food choices. Here’s some of what you’ll notice.

A Refreshed Design

Calories and the serving size declaration will be larger and will appear in bold type. Additionally, servings per container will be larger.

Manufacturers must declare the actual grams of vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium.

The footnote is changing to better explain the meaning of % Daily Value. It will now read, “*The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”

Information that Reflects Nutrition Science

Added sugars will be included on the label. In explaining this change, the FDA cites scientific data that shows it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10% of your total daily calories from added sugar.

Vitamin D and potassium will be required on the label. Calcium and iron will continue to be required. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required, but can be included on a voluntary basis.

You will continue to see lines for total fat, saturated fat and trans fat, but “calories from fat” is being removed because research shows that type of fat is more important than the amount.

Updated Serving Sizes and Labeling Requirements

 Serving sizes will be based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating. For example, the reference amount for a serving of ice cream was previously ½ cup but is changing to ⅔ cup.

For products that are larger than a single serving but that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings (like a pint of ice cream), manufacturers will have to provide “dual column” labels to indicate the amount of calories and nutrients on both a “per serving" and “per package”/“per unit” basis.