Today is a good day for us health and wellness enthusiasts, thanks to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as the efforts of first lady Michelle Obama. Today, the FDA has proposed an update to the nutrition labels found on food packaging, changes that could potentially help millions of people shop smarter and eat healthier.
When my husband comes home with a pint of ice cream and eats the entire thing, proclaiming that it only has (for example) 200 calories and 12 grams of sugar, I always feel that it is my wifely duty to remind him that there are two servings in the container and the numbers he so proudly stated are based on one serving.
Because I am loyal like that. And it serves him right for not sharing.
Seriously, those of us who are avid label readers know that sometimes the stated portion sizes on those nutrition labels are ridiculously low. As far as I am concerned, nobody eats half a cup of anything and feels satisfied. More realistic serving sizes are helpful to alert folks of the reality of their portions.
Maintaining a healthy weight has a lot to do with mathematics, so the proposed changes will also highlight the calories in the more realistic serving sizes. This should better arm consumers to be able to keep track of, or have a better handle on, calories in versus calories out.
The new label also proposes to include the number of added sugars to a product. This may be my favorite part of the proposal by the FDA, because when consumers get smarter about the unnecessary amount of sugars we are consuming on a regular basis, I believe that they will opt for healthier choices. (At least that is the hope.) This, in turn, may put pressure on food manufacturers to create healthier items in order to maintain their market share — their piece of the pie, so to speak. Pump up the nutrients, eliminate the sugars, and then we can all hold hands, and sing in harmony.
Another great move, in my opinion, is that the amount of both potassium and Vitamin D will now be required on nutrition labels. These are important to the diet for maintaining optimal health for people of all ages.
Other proposed changes include updating the daily values and moving them to the left-hand side of the product label, where they will be more easily noted. The one item on a nutrition label that you will not see anymore is calories from fat. The idea behind this is that since the original nutrition labels were developed, we now know that calories from fat is not as important as the type of fat in an item. Type of fat will still be on your product labels.
Whether you like the proposed changes, hate the changes, or could not care less, do not assume that the food on your next shopping trip will contain the newly revised labels. These proposed changes will not take effect for quite some time. The FDA has proposed that manufacturers have two years to comply once the Nutrition Facts label changes are finalized.
Since the original label was created in 1993, we know much more about how our food is impacting our health, from the amount of calories and fat to the sugars, sodium, and nutrients. These proposed changes should, in theory, make it more helpful to people who need to avoid certain ingredients for health purposes or choose to limit them for better overall health. As far as I see it, there is still more work to be done with regards to informing the public in terms of regulating chemical additives as well as those used in farming, in the manufacturing process, and in product packaging. However, this is a tremendous step in terms of informing the public about their food consumption.
Of course, one does have to care enough to actually read the labels, but that is a whole other story.
You can read more about the proposed changes at FDA.gov.
Photo credit: EatSleepBe.com
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