THE BLOG

The Food Label Gets a Makeover

05/20/2014 09:31 am ET | Updated Jul 20, 2014
  • Helen Agresti RD Registered Dietitian and founder of Professional Nutrition Consulting, LLC and The 24_7 Dietitian App.

As a Registered Dietitian and mother of 5, I am thrilled that after 20 years the FDA is making changes to the original Nutrition Facts label. The food label gives health conscious consumers important information about the products they choose to eat and drink. If the new label gives clear and concise information about what is in our food, there's no doubt it will have a positive impact on Americans' lives.

Today, heart disease, obesity, stroke and chronic diseases are the leading causes of death in the U.S. I applaud the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama and the FDA. With 27.2% of the population classified as obese, improving Americans' eating habits should be a national priority. There is no better role model than our First Lady to educate and motivate the American people to live healthier lives.

I recently had the honor and pleasure to thank Mrs. Obama in person for being so instrumental in overhauling the food label. I conveyed to her how important this is to nutrition educators and that I use the food label everyday as a teaching tool. I also explained to the First Lady that educating the public on how to interpret the food label is a priority in my practice. Accurate and reliable information is crucial to help the fight against childhood obesity and the many health problems it causes. The new food label will provide that information.

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The majority of consumers have a hard time reading the current label. They say they don't know what they should be looking for in a healthy product. They also get confused with converting measurements and servings. As a nutrition expert, I educate clients on how to easily decipher whether or not the product is a healthy choice for them and their particular nutritional needs. As a result, they make healthier choices for themselves and their families.

Here are a few of the most significant changes to the Food Label:

1) Calories will be easier to read. This will require food manufacturers to display the amount of calories of each product in bolder and bigger font.

2) Serving sizes will be realistic in terms of what people actually eat and drink in one sitting. For example, a pint of ice cream will be 2 servings instead of 4.

3) There will be a new line for added sugars. It is important to know how much sugar is added from the food manufacturer.

4) Vitamin D will be required to appear on the new food label. It's essential for healthy bones in women and the elderly. However, the FDA has made it optional for food manufacturers to include vitamins A and C.

It could take food manufacturers a year or more to implement these changes to their food labels. Hopefully, it will motivate the food industry to create healthier products knowing that their ingredients will be more visible and understandable. This will allow consumers to be more aware of what they are purchasing and eating. We are definitely taking a healthy step in the right direction.

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