Labeling the Food Label

The New Year gives rise to new resolutions, but many have grown tired of attempting unsuccessful diets and seeing numbers on the scale crawl up, year after year. Although there is no magic bullet for weight loss, it is possible to reach your health goals by lifelong commitment to a healthy and balanced diet.

Making healthy choices isn’t as difficult or intimidating as it may seem: one useful strategy is to take advantage of the Nutrition Facts Label (Figure 1). Found on most prepackaged foods, the table is designed to inform consumers about the nutritional content of the food they are purchasing. Read below for a summary of the components:

  • Figure 2: Side-by-Side Comparison of current and new food labels Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

    Figure 2: Side-by-Side Comparison of current and new food labels
    Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

    Serving size determines the nutrition information you receive—including calories and nutrients—of a food. The amount of each nutrient consumed will change relative to eating more or less than the serving size provided. Serving size and portion size are not the same! The next you eat a meal, try comparing serving size to the amount you actually eat.

  • Calories correspond to the amount of energy by any given food. Consuming excess calories results in unintended weight gain. You are more likely to keep your weight in check by tracking the number of calories you consume. Contact a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or visit www.myplate.gov to calculate individual calorie needs.
  • Percent Daily Value (%DV) can be used to evaluate whether a food is low (5% DV or less) or high (20% DV or more) in a specific nutrient. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends choosing foods providing 20% DV or more of vitamins and minerals, and providing 5% DV or less of sodium and saturated fat, the average American consumes excess sodium and saturated fat, and consumes inadequate amounts of key nutrients.
  • The Ingredient List itemizes ingredients by greatest to least weight, and allows consumers to identify the contents of a food product For example, you can use the ingredient list to determine whether a bread has been made from whole or refined wheat.
Figure 2: Side-by-Side Comparison of current and new food labels Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Figure 2: Side-by-Side Comparison of current and new food labels
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Nutrition recommendations for American have changed considerably since the introduction of the current food label in 1994. To better reflect these changes, the FDA approved a number of revisions on the current food label (Figure 2). The new label is scheduled to launch in 2018, and will feature a more prominent placement of serving sizes and calories, issue a mandatory % Daily Value for added sugars, and introduce values for potassium and vitamin D. Serving size will also change, and will be measured based on the amount American actually consume, versus what they “should” consume: for example, a 20 ounce sports drink will be designated as being one serving, rather than two (or three!).

The Nutrition Facts Label is intended to inform and assist consumers when they are selecting foods, and can become a valuable tool when used to your advantage. Paying attention to the foods you purchase and choose to eat brings you one step closer to achieving your health goals.
References

Emory Bariatric Center

If your resolutions include improving your health and weight loss, let Emory Bariatric Center help you. We offer both surgical and non-surgical weight loss programs. View our website www.emoryhealthcare.org/bariatrics for program options or call 404-778-7777 for more information.

Resources

  1. “Food Labeling Guide”. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. N.p., 2013. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.
  2. “Report Index – 2015 Advisory Report”. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. N.p., 2015. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.
  3. V. R. Delgado, RDN, LD, M. Moyer, MPH, RDN, LD, and E Lin, DO FACS. “The Food Label: A Guide To Educating Bariatric Patients”. Bariatric Surgical Practice and Patient Care 10.3 (2015): 87-92. Web.”Changes To The Nutrition Facts Label”. N.p., 2016. Web. 9 Jan. 2017.

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