Use new Nutrition Fact labels to improve your health

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What’s new in 2021?

The COVID-19 vaccines we are all eagerly waiting for, to be sure. Have you noticed in the stores that the familiar nutrition facts label has been getting a quiet makeover? Jan. 1 was the last day for the majority of food manufacturers to roll out the new labels.

Why You Should Care

As much as you should aim for meals made from whole, unprocessed foods, you all buy packaged and canned foods. They are convenient and accessible year round. Knowing how to read the labels helps you make healthier choices about what you eat and drink.

Ready? Let’s explore why these changes can help you eat healthier.

Calories go Bold

The calories are now printed in larger and bolder print type. This makes it easier for us to consume foods within our calorie limits.

I hear from a lot of people asking if they should limit fats. Our body needs dietary fat, to make important hormones, to support a healthy nervous system, and to help our body utilize fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

The Dietary Guidelines no longer emphasize overall low fat but rather limit saturated fats and trans fat. That’s why the ‘calories from fat’ is no longer on the new label.

Serving Sizes Get Real

Twenty years ago, people ate smaller portions in one sitting. The new serving size reflects the larger amount people today are likely to eat. Ice cream’s serving size increased from 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup. Both a 12-ounce and 20-ounce soft drink bottles are now labeled as one serving.

Remember, the new serving sizes are not necessarily the portions you should eat. For those of you who are diabetic, remember 1/2 cup of ice-cream is still counted as one serving, to be tracked towards the total daily carbohydrate count.

Check the Serving size

Use the serving size to compare protein, carbs and sodium etc. between packages. Pay attention to the serving size, and the number of servings in a package. For example, if the label says one serving of lasagna is one cup and you ate two cups, then you have consumed two servings, hence double the nutrients and calories shown on the label.

Limit Added Sugars

Added sugars are now easier to spot in the labels. Too much added sugars in our diet can raise the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart diseases.

The added sugars category includes sugars and syrups that are added during the processing of foods. Examples are honey, sugar, syrup. Naturally occurring sugars in fruits and milk do not count.

Choose foods that have little or no added sugars. American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 36 grams for men, or 25 grams for women.

Did you know that the two main sources of added sugars in the United States are sodas and snacks, such as candies and desserts?

The High and Low of Daily Values %

The daily values are the reference daily amount for nutrients to consume, or not to exceed. The daily value % is the how much each serving contributes to the daily diet.

Remember this: lower for sodium, saturated fat and added sugars, but higher for nutrients that Americans are not consuming enough: vitamin D, fiber, calcium and potassium. What’s new is that vitamin D for bone health, and potassium, for heart health, are now required in the label.

The Bottom Line

• Check the Servings

• Limit Added Sugars

• Use % Daily Value as a Guide

• Go ahead, use the new nutrition labels to be a savvy shopper to eat healthier.

Cindy Chan Phillips is the contract Registered Dietician for Oneida County Office for the Aging. Oneida County OFA provides nutrition counseling and education for the Aging and Continuing Care/NY Connects. Anyone with questions about services and programs for older adults and caregivers, including the Senior Nutrition Program, should call Oneida County Office for the Aging/NY Connects at 315-798-5456.

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