As diet and fitness trends fluctuate and our understanding of meaningful sleep grows, health officials are challenged to keep up with the curve. Every new wellness movement or health claim brings with it the need for FDA vetting and potential change in regulation. This ever-evolving landscape creates a ripple effect that touches everything from food labels to how businesses store food.
In the last year, the FDA made its first significant changes to food labeling in 20 years. The following article reviews some of those alterations and how they extend into every facet of our lives — from health and mood to our ability to get a deeper night’s sleep.
At first glance, you might notice some bolder text on the back of your food products. However, the label changes are more meaningful than that. Here are the highlights:
- How much should you actually consume? We’ve all opened a bag of chips, ready to chow down, only to see in tiny print that the package contains six adult servings. At best, this unobtrusive method of communication was inconvenient; at worst, misleading.
Serving size is now bolded, front and center on the label. You can see at a glance how much you should (or shouldn’t) eat. In many cases, the portions themselves have been updated to reflect more realistic and nutritional servings.
- What’s more, you no longer have to squint and hunt to find what is arguably the most crucial detail on the label: calorie count. Calorie totals are now printed larger than other information. Before you even put the product in the shopping cart, you can easily get an idea of how many calories that food comprises. Knowing that information upfront goes a long way toward establishing healthy eating habits.
- What about the nutrition behind the calories? The FDA has also updated “daily value” figures. Ideally, this information should help you regulate the intake of certain nutritive categories, such as sodium, so that you can scale back if you consume too much. Additionally, the new labels better explain what daily value actually means for a day’s worth of eating.
- Three key ingredients previously were not required on food labels: sugars, vitamin D and potassium. The FDA determined that those substances were important enough to necessitate a permanent home on the product. Manufacturers must now list the amount in grams, as well as the daily value percentage.
Of note, certain ingredients such as vitamins A and C do not need to be listed, as modern diets tend to be far more generous in those nutrients than before.
Why Were These Changes Made Now?
Food science is always evolving. Not only does our knowledge continue to grow, but our eating habits change constantly. Keeping up is a tall order, so the FDA must occasionally make major adjustments all at one time. The modifications listed above were deemed the most crucial and relevant to today’s consumers and health professionals.
Furthermore, people lean on this information as part of their daily routines. They want to know what foods will give them energy when they need it. They are also more attuned to the products that will help them rest and recharge at the end of a hard day.
How Can These Changes Help Consumers?
Here are a few ways consumers can use the revised nutrition labels to boost their health, mood and overall well-being.
- Know what to avoid at bedtime. The obvious culprits have always been coffee and soda. However, previously “hidden” ingredients — such as acidic pasta sauce or sugar in a bag of BBQ chips — are now in plain sight. As we grow used to these smarter food labels, we can make more informed decisions when the sun goes down.
- Leverage foods for an energy boost. Just like sleep, exercise requires a certain diet before, during and even after the session. The new labels make it far easier to identify ingredients that could make you feel sluggish, as well as those that optimize the calories you are consuming.
- Keep better track of intake. With key information printed more clearly, health-conscious consumers can have an easier time identifying and logging nutrition information. Quick and straightforward access to health data makes it painless to maintain food journals and encourages long-term healthy habits.
Ultimately, the goal of FDA food labels is to give consumers a convenient, accurate and user-friendly way to view and understand nutrition. What you do with that information is up to you. When, what and how much food you consume can shape the daily routine, improving your mood and providing healthy energy. Not only that, but the right foods can set the stage for better, deeper sleep. So, take some time to become familiar with the new layout of food labels, and put that information to use for a more balanced lifestyle for your family.
Author bio: John Hinchey is VP of Sales for Westfalia Technologies, Inc., a leading provider of logistics solutions for plants, warehouses and distribution centers. He has more than 20 years of experience in manufacturing and warehouse automation.