Nutrition Facts Panel to Get a Serious Makeover

Posted: January 29, 2014 in Ask The Guyatitian, News
Tags: , , ,

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By David Grotto, RDN, LDN

After 20 long years, the FDA is now proposing revisions to the Nutrition Facts label, commonly found on the pack of food and beverage containers.

Why? Many experts agree that the information contained within the label is outdated or not clearly understood by the consumer. This may explain why less than half of adults currently read the nutrition label, with any regularity. Though encouraging news from a recent USDA study, which found that label reading has increased by 34% over the past two years, improvements are still needed to get the rest of us on board.

What information from the nutrition fact panel isn’t resonating with consumers?
Calories. Experts and consumers agree. This info is probably the most important thing on the label and should be easily seen. Bolded and larger font size for “calories” is being proposed.
Calories from fat. Science supports that total calorie intake is far more important than where calories come from. Though it is important to know if a product contains healthy fats or bad trans fats, we no longer have to be “total fat-phobic”. News Flash! Olive oil derives 100% of its calories from fat. See how “Calories from fat” doesn’t help much?
Grams. As much as our elementary teachers have tried, we (as Americans) have not warmed to the metric system. Most consumers have no idea what 30 grams of something looks like. Instead, use teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, handfuls or a shot glass (okay – I understand how much that is – maybe the kids won’t).
Sugars. Is it total sugars in a product or added sugars that is a real or perceived concern? Many are pushing for either including a line that says “added sugars” or replace sugars with the term “added sugars”. Again, maybe an icon that shows teaspoons of sugar versus grams might be more useful?
Grams of whole grains. Again with the grams thingy! Us old-school RDs have always taught our patients to look to the first ingredient in determining what is most in a product. We also said to look for statements like 100% whole grain on the label. People understand percent’s.
Be Up Front. In this day of transparency, the consumer assumes that someone is trying to pull the wool over their eyes (aka “hiding something”) when nutrition information is relegated to the back of the package. I agree. Expect to be seeing more “Nutrition Keys”, which are highlights of the nutrition facts panel, appearing on the front of the label.
Serving size. Time to get real here too, people. Expect to see not only more realistic serving sizes but perhaps visuals/language that does a better job explaining what a serving size is. “A serving is a Fred Flintstone-sized bowl of cereal” (cue Fred). Well – maybe that’s my serving size – but you get the idea, right?
More importantly, what do you think needs to change? What say you? Take the short survey below!

Thank you to my intern Liana Akkawi for her assistance with this post!

Comments
  1. Lizzy says:

    I like it when it has common allergens in bold, easy to read print. It makes it much easier to buy things for my niece who has celiac.

  2. Thea Rudland says:

    Since so few people look at serving size and calories per serving, I think it’d be interesting to see calories per container. So you can really see the amount of calories if you eat the whole bag of chips.

    • guyatitian says:

      My buddy Lisa Lillien (aka “Hungry Girl”) and I both agree that a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese IS a serving! Ha! But of course, that’s a great example of a “portion” versus a “serving”, which, in my experience with thousands of patients, is a very confusing concept for most consumers. So “calories/container” may be much more useful and perhaps may single handedly deter overeating. Love the idea! Maybe that info should appear on the front of the label as one of the Nutrition Keys as well. What do you think?

  3. […] See the rest here: Nutrition Facts Panel to Get a Serious Makeover | David Grotto's … […]

  4. Great article explaining nutrition facts in detail. Loved it absolutely. I blog at http://spiqy.com/vitacost

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