In May 2016 the Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA) announced new changes to the Nutrition Facts label that will be required by large manufacturers to implement July 2018, or for smaller companies to implement by 2019. The Nutrition Facts label is the table of information listed on most packaged foods that tells important nutrition information about the food. The proposed changes will make the labels easier to read and understand and will highlight key nutrition information that links diet to diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Although the new Nutrition Facts label will generally look the same as before, manufacturers will be required to include different nutrients and change the font sizes of some information. On the FDA’s website, it states that “Calories”, “servings per container”, and “serving size” will be in a larger text for better at-a-glance viewing. Manufacturers are also required to include the amount and percent Daily Value of vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium. All other vitamin and mineral amounts and percentages (including previously required vitamins A and C) are voluntary for manufacturers to include. The labels will continue to include “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” but “Calories from Fat” will not be included because research indicates that the type of fat is more important than the amount. If you would still like to know, Calories from Fat can also be easily calculated yourself by multiplying the Total Fat (in grams) by 9 (the amount of calories in 1 gram of fat).

“Added sugars” will be added in grams and as a percent Daily Value based on the research that it is hard to stay within your calorie limits and get all the recommended nutrient amounts if you eat more than 10 percent of your total calories from added sugar. It is also important to note that the daily values, which are reference amounts for nutrients, are being updated based on newer research for sodium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D. These affect percent Daily Value, which is included on the Nutrition Facts label.

The FDA wants to eliminate confusion of how many calories are in the listed serving size. Serving sizes are getting a huge overhaul and now must be based on amounts that people are actually consuming—not on the amounts that they should be eating. One example is the reference amount for soda. It is changing from 8 fluid ounces to 12 fluid ounces. However, if a soda is packaged in a 20 fluid ounce bottle, manufacturers will be required to include the calories and other nutrients for the whole bottle because people typically consume it all at one time. For other items that are larger than a single serving, but could still be eaten in one sitting, it will be required to provide “dual column” labels indicating amounts per serving and amounts per package.

Knowing this information is important so that you know what to look for when you are at the store. It can be easy to be tricked into thinking a food is good for you because many claims may be showcased on the label. However, the Nutrition Facts label is meant to act as an equalizer to give unbiased nutrition content so that consumers can make the best choice.

Molly Roemer graduated with a degree in Dietetics from BYU and currently resides in Alamo. She enjoys food and family and seeks to enrich the lives of others through both. Email questions or comments to roemermolly@gmail.com.