Sunday, March 2, 2014

Nutrition Facts - Calories and Added Sugars

Here is Part 2 in a mini-series on the proposed Nutrition Facts label updates. Nutrition Facts labels were introduced 20 years ago by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Part 1 discussed the proposed change to serving size information.   Another proposed change is to display Calories more prominently.  But it's not all about the calories, is it?  What about nutrient density?  Here is a sample proposed label.

Think about 2 drinks with about the same number of calories, a can of cola and chocolate milk.  Oh, okay, since calories are the "go to" info on the nutrition facts label now, I guess I can drink either one.  Let's look a little farther down the label.  Sugars will be about the same for both.  But now, the really helpful new information on the proposed label, Added Sugars will reveal quite a bit.  All the sugar in cola will be "added" while the delicious natural sugar in milk will not. Only the chocolate flavoring will be added sugar.

Further reading of the label will reveal the power packed nutrient density of milk, versus cola. But more on that in part 3 of this series.

I teach students about added sugars using applesauce packaging, comparing the grams of sugar in unsweetened versus sweetened applesauce. Now they will be able to see exactly what is added versus what is from a natural, deliciously sweet apple.

Perhaps Added Sugars should be in the big bold font, rather than calories, especially since the Dietary Guidelines tell us that Solid Fats and Added Sugars are the foods to avoid in the American diet.  Sodium also made that worst dressed list.  Remember, the Dietary Guidelines, updated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)  every 5 years and are the basis for federal food and nutrition policy and nutrition education. 

Solid Fats were addressed when trans fat labeling requirements took effect several years ago.  By looking at Trans Fat on the label, we can see if artery clogging fats are in our food.  Adding information about Added Sugars is a huge help for nutrition educators and for those attempting to educate themselves about what is in their food.

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