Kathy Whelan

Posted on November 12, 2018

It was disappointing to learn that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended the time for compliance with their new requirements for the food labels that appear as “Nutrition Facts” on packaged foods. Full compliance (which was originally required by July of this year) has been delayed, but some of the new labels have already begun to appear. If you are a food label reader like I am, you’ll want to be aware of some important changes:

Serving Size will be defined differently and must reflect how much of the particular food Americans typically consume, not how much they ought to consume. This change will mean increases in some serving sizes (and, therefore, calories). It should be noted that Serving Size should not be viewed as a recommended amount or an amount that necessarily fits in with a healthy eating plan for you.

Added Sugars will no longer be lumped together with sugars that occur naturally in food. Hooray! Sugars will be listed as Total Sugars, and Added Sugars will be broken out. Another change: a Daily Value will be listed (for Added Sugars, not Total Sugars), based on a 2,000 calorie daily diet. Current dietary guidelines suggest limiting added sugar to 10% of total daily calories. For a 2,000 calorie diet, this would be 200 calories (about 50 grams of sugar). It should be noted that the Added Sugars category will include honey as well as high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners that have garnered more negative attention than honey.

Under the current labeling system, added sugar often makes the difference between a food I will eat and one I will not. If I see sugar listed as an ingredient in a “health” bar with fruit or in dried fruit (where natural sugars are already present), I will find something else to eat. By quantifying the added sugar in addition to listing it as an ingredient, the new labels will help me better judge the quality of a particular food.

Vitamin D and Potassium (both amounts and percentages of Daily Value) are required on the new labels for the first time, which is helpful because many Americans are deficient in these nutrients. Particularly for those of us who live where cold weather may keep us indoors and out of the sun in winter, it’s helpful to know which foods contain Vitamin D.

Calories from Fat will no longer appear on the new labels, although amounts and percentages of Saturated Fat and Trans Fat will still be listed. The thinking behind this change is that certain types of healthy fat, such as those found in nuts, avocados and olive oil, should not be discouraged.

If you would like to know more about the new food labels, or check out the FAQs, you can visit the FDA’s website:


Apart from the new Nutrition Facts, I hope you will remember to check the ingredient labels on breads and other foods containing flour. Remember that most of the grains we eat should be whole grains. Just to be clear, “multigrain” is not the same as “whole grain.” To make sure you are eating the healthiest grains, look for the first listed ingredient to have “whole” in its name.

I hope this information will help you in keeping your eating healthy!

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