Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Will the NEW Nutrition Labels Help You Eat Smarter?

Here's what's new about the proposed nutrition labels: not much.

image source: Forbes

First, the total calories will be printed in larger type. Second, many portion sizes will be larger, more like what people actually consider a serving, the FDA says. Third, you're going to see what percent of your daily vitamin D and potassium you get in a serving, instead of listings for vitamins A and C.  Fourth, the amount of "added sugar" will be listed on the new labels.

In other words, if you're counting calories, you might find the proposed new labels useful. If you know what "added sugar" means, you might be intrigued for awhile by those numbers. But basically, the "new" nutrition labels are about as different as size 8 and size 10 of the same prom dress your mom wore 20 years ago.

Modern day nutrition and weight loss science has come a long way, and it's needed now more than ever. Check any of the major web sites, Web-MD, the ADA (American Dietetic Association, or U.S. News' "Top 10" diets, and all of them recommend eating more fruits, vegetables, and "good" fats in addition to, or sometimes instead of counting calories. Today's dietitians stress knowing how big a healthy portion size is, rather than counting the calories of every single bite you eat in a day.

By law, the FDA food label's portion size has to reflect "actual" portion sizes that people tend to eat. With what we know now, wouldn't it be far better to show what a portion size of ice-cream, for example, should look like, than have a nutrition label give people "the OK" to eat an average super-sized portion? Should the law be changed to reflect the times, rather than trying to fit the nutrition labels to an outdated law?

80s prom dress from promfashionguide
Would you really wear that oh-so-1980's taffeta prom dress to your 2015 prom, just because your mom added a bigger bow?

Another thing that has changed over the past 20 years is how much lab-created flavoring and additives are sold in food. Large chunks of today's food industry do not want you to know or notice how many "artificial" ingredients were used to create your frozen breakfast sandwich. If not artificial, then certainly not plant- or dairy-derived. Because the word "natural" is not regulated by the FDA, so food producers can write "natural" in big letters on the front of a package of food containing things you'd never find in your home pantry.

I would like to see a few yes/no check-boxes:

  • Y/N   High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Y/N   Non-plant or artificial food coloring
  • Y/N   BHA or BHT
  • Y/N   MSG or other chemical flavor enhancers
  • Y/N   Growth Hormones used (in meat, dairy, egg-laying hens)
I think I speak for the majority of mothers of young children when I ask to see that on the new food labels. And finally, I would like to see more prominence given to fiber content, and a reminder to eat 8 to 10 portions of colorful vegetables and fruits per day.

Guess what's being removed from the nutrition label? Calories from fat. The number I find most useful in figuring out whether my daily fat-to-protein intake is reasonable.

So, the proposed new labels take a few tentative steps forwards and a giant step back. The original food label was at least a fairly accurate reflection of what dietitians knew in the 1980's about how our bodies used food. The proposed "new" label does not reflect how much more we know now about healthy eating and maintaining a healthy weight.

You can submit your comments to the FDA during the remainder of the 90-day comment period.

No comments:

Post a Comment