A Helpful Guide to the New Nutrition Facts Label

A Helpful Guide to the New Nutrition Facts Label

Did you know that the Nutrition Facts label is about to get a makeover? As of January 1, 2020, that black-and-white information panel found on all packaged foods will feature some important changes designed to help consumers make more informed food choices.

Read on for a guide to the new and improved Nutrition Facts label, coming soon to a grocery store near you.

Why is the Nutrition Facts label being updated?

The Nutrition Label changes coming in 2020 mark the first time that the label has been updated in nearly 25 years. During that time, we’ve learned a lot more about nutrition—particularly about the link between diet and chronic diseases.

As a result, we’ve developed new ideas about what constitutes a healthy diet. The upcoming changes reflect this new knowledge and ensure that consumers are getting nutritional information based on the latest scientific research.

nutrition panel
Image by Dan Domme | Flickr

What changes will I see on the new Nutrition Facts label?

The new Nutrition Facts label will feature a fresh design and several key changes. These include:

Servings.

If you’re like many people, you’ve probably had the experience of finishing a bag of chips. You may have thought it was a single serving, only to discover from the Nutrition Facts label that the bag actually contained multiple servings. Consequently, you’ve just consumed more calories, sodium, etc., than you thought you did. To help prevent this, the “servings per container” and “serving size” declarations are in larger and/or bolder type on the new label. This is intended to make them easier to identify.

In addition, serving sizes have been updated so that they more accurately reflect modern consumers’ actual eating and drinking habits. For example, the serving size for ice cream on the former label was 1/2 cup. On the new label, it’s 2/3 cup. Finally, there are additional labeling requirements for packages that contain multiple servings.

Calories.

The most visually obvious change on the new label has been made to the information on calories. Laid out in much bigger, bolder type than on the old label, it’s now the most prominent information on the entire panel.

Fats.

The new label is no longer required to list how many calories come from fat. This reflects our new understanding that it’s the type of fat, rather than the amount, that has the biggest impact on health. To this end, the new labels will continue to separately list the amount of saturated fat and trans fat, as well as the total fat.

Added Sugars.

The way sugars are labeled is another big change on the new Nutrition Facts label. The old label only listed the amount of total sugars per serving size. However, the new label is required to include a separate listing for added sugars, both in grams and as a percent Daily Value.

“Added sugars” refers to sugars that are added during processing (including sugars from syrups, honey, and concentrated fruit or vegetable juices), or products that are considered processed by definition (for example, a bag of table sugar). This new labeling reflects the FDA’s recommendation, which is based on the latest scientific evidence, that no more than 10 percent of your daily calories come from added sugars.

Nutrients.

The list of nutrients that appears close to the bottom of the Nutrition Facts label has been updated to better reflect current deficiencies in the average American diet. The old label included calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C.

On the new label, calcium and iron are still listed, but vitamins A and C have been removed. This is because deficiencies of these vitamins are relatively rare today. Instead, they have been replaced by listings for:

Potassium. An essential part of our diets, potassium plays a vital role in the functioning of the cardiovascular system. It maintains normal blood pressure and is involved in nerve signaling and muscle contraction. For people over the age of 14, the recommended daily intake of potassium is 4,700 mg per day. However, the typical intake is just over 2,500 mg.

Vitamin D. Despite the critical role it plays in aiding calcium absorption and maintaining strong bones, vitamin D is an underrated and underconsumed part of our diet. This is largely because natural sources of vitamin D are difficult to come by in food. Although the recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 15 micrograms per day, most people get less than a third of that (4.9 micrograms) from food.

Footnote.

The final change to the new nutrition label comes right at the bottom. The footnote that explains what “percent Daily Values” means has been updated to make it easier to understand. The new footnote clearly defines percent Daily Values as the extent to which the nutrients in one serving of the product contribute to a daily diet of 2,000 calories.