WHAT ARE NUTRITION FACTS LABELS?
The NUTRITION FACTS LABEL (NFL) was established by the Nutrition Labelling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA) and designed by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to communicate the nutrition profile of packaged foods and help the consumer identify and make healthier food choices. The motivation to changes on the at-the-time voluntary labelling was started in the late 1960s following the proliferation of processed foods as well as increased knowledge about the diet and obesity and the link between obesity and disease such as heart disease and cancer.
Over time, there have been a few revisions and proposals made to the NLF, including the addition of trans fat content in 2006 following the evidence of trans fat intake being linked to adverse effects on cardiometabolic health.
In late May 2016, following proposed suggestions for revision in 2014, the FDA announced finalized revisions to the NFL. This was based on contemporary nutrition research, public opinion on proposed changes as well as dietary advise from nutritional expert groups.
HOW DOES THE NFL WORK?
Important things to note about the NFL are: –
- The total number of calories
- The servings size (corresponding to that total number of calories)
- The number of servings per container (so you know how many servings you are having if you have the whole container)
- The percent daily value (corresponding again to the serving size).
- Total sugars – important for watching daily dietary sugar intake
- Added sugars (now includes percent daily values for added sugars)
“WHY” ARE NFLS IMPORTANT FOR YOU?
Research has shown that the NFL is generally misunderstood and misused, and this presents a challenge in the public being able to use this to make healthy choices. However, working with your health care provider to know which nutrients you need to limit or increase based on your specific health care concerns is the first step in knowing how to use the nutrition facts labels as a guide to you making healthier food choices.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THE % DV AS THIS CAN HELP YOU DETERMINE IF A SERVING OF FOOD IS HIGH OR LOW IN A NUTRIENT. IT ALSO HELPS YOU MAKE INFORMED CHOICES BY COMPARING FOODS (ENSURING THE SERVING SIZE IS THE SAME) AND BEING AWARE OF HOW MUCH OF A NUTRIENT YOU ARE HAVING WITH ONE MEAL WILL MAKE YOU PLAN BETTER FOR YOUR MEALS FOR THE REST OF THE DAY.
Note that 20% or higher in the DV means that product is high in that nutrient, and 5% or low in the DV means that product is low in that nutrient.
Aim to have foods that are higher in dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium (unless your levels need to be limited in those for medical reasons); and lower in saturated fats, sodium and added sugars.
Also, bear in mind that the serving size consumed will affect the %DV.