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5 Things You Need to Know About the New Nutrition Facts Label

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized a new and improved label that will appear on the majority of packaged foods sold in the United States. Yes, after 20 years, the Nutrition Facts label is finally getting a long-overdue makeover. (Manufacturers have until July 2018 to make the switch.) Considering the changes reflect how Americans are actually eating as well as new scientific evidence, docs, nutritionists, and Michelle Obama are all thrilled. Here's a breakdown of the update, and how the changes to the Nutrition Facts Label will help you make healthier and more informed eating choices.

Nutrition Facts Label Comparison

1. "Calories" and "servings" will be highlighted with bigger, bolder font. While it may making living in denial about how many calories are in that candy bar that much harder, magnifying this information is a key update when it comes to helping consumers make informed food choices more easily, says nutritionist Keri Gans, R.D, and Shape advisory board member. (Next up: What Matters Most On a Nutrition Label—Besides Calories.)

2. Serving sizes will now reflect the amounts of food that people actually eat. The FDA explains that how much people eat and drink has changed since the last serving size requirements were published in 1993; as a result, servings will now be required by law to be based on amounts of food that people are actually eating at one time, rather than what they should be eating. Because, "really, what was the purpose of putting a serving size on a package that isn't even close to what someone actually eats?" Gans says. Preach.

In addition, both "per serving" and "per package" calorie and nutrition information will be required so people will understand how many calories they're consuming if they eat or drink an entire multi-serving package (like a pint of ice cream) at one time. Again, no more living in denial! And, lastly, gone are the days of having to calculate how many calories/nutrients you're actually getting from those deceptive products that contain between one and two servings, like a 20-ounce soda. Manufacturers are now required to label those items as one serving because people typically consume them in one sitting. "Most people assume a package of something is the serving, or they can't be bothered doing the math needed to figure out what is," Gans says. "This new update is just calling it like it is."

New Nutrition Facts Label

3. "Calories from Fat" will be removed. That's because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount, the FDA explains. "Total Fat," "Saturated Fat," and "Trans Fat" will continue to be required. "I'm not sure anyone understood what calories from fat even meant to begin with," Gans says. "This change will reflect what we've learned from research about the importance of type of fat." (Here, 11 High-Fat Foods a Healthy Diet Should Always Include.)

4. "Added Sugars" is now required. The number of grams and a percent daily value for "added sugars" will be added to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product and keep their total daily calories from added sugars in check. (Because, surprise, Americans get more calories from sugar than they should!) "This is a very important change. Not all sugar is created equal, and hopefully this will help the consumer decipher between the two and know whether the sugar is naturally occurring and comes with a lot of nutritional benefits versus if it's sugar simply added to a product for taste." For example, sugar in milk and 100 percent orange juice will not occur as added, but sugar from a candy bar or cookie will, she explains.

5. Vitamins and nutrients will be overhauled to reflect new science. Vitamin D and potassium will now be required on the label, since these are nutrients that some people aren't getting enough of, which can put them at risk for chronic disease. (Find out How a Vitamin D Deficiency Can Harm Your Health.) Percent daily values and gram amounts of calcium and iron will also continue to be required, while Vitamins A and C will no longer be mandatory since deficiencies of these vitamins are rare, the FDA explains. Additionally, daily values for nutrients like sodium and dietary fiber are being updated based on newer scientific evidence from the Institute of Medicine and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the FDA explains. (Make sure you read up on the new The New USDA Dietary Guidelines, which came out earlier this year.)

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