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The Hidden Library in Every Food Aisle

Welcome to Coaches’ Corner;  our blog series dedicated to bringing you actionable health and fitness tips directly from our WebMD coaches. With extensive education, certifications and training in everything from mental health to exercise kinesiology and more, our coaches are devoted to sharing valuable advice on a wide-range of well-being topics. 

By Amanda Burleson, Training and Development Specialist

The next time you head to the grocery store, make sure to bring your reading glasses. Why you ask? Well, there’s valuable information you may be missing that could influence your health and well-being.

The Food and Drug Administration has issued new guidelines for food labels—those black-and-white things on the back of a box or container. These guidelines reflect new scientific information linking diet to chronic diseases.

Yes, that means what you put into your mouth matters and potentially can do you harm down the road if you aren’t paying attention. On the flip side, the right choices could actually help you. The hope is that the new food label will make it easier for you to make more informed food choices and understand more about what you are consuming.

What’s changing on food labels?

  • Servings: Serving sizes have been updated to better reflect what people actually eat and drink today. For example, the serving size for ice cream was previously ½ cup and now will be 2/3 cup.
  • Calories: The font is now larger and bolder to help it stand out from other information.
  • Fats: Calories From Fat has been removed because research shows the type of fat consumed is more important than the amount.
  • Added Sugars: Added Sugars include sugars that have been added during processing or packing of a food. This is now required on every label and can be found underneath the Total Sugars section
  • Nutrients: Vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium are now required because Americans do not always get the recommended amounts.

When will these changes take effect?

Manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales have until Jan. 1, 2020 and those with less than $10 million in annual food sales have until Jan. 1, 2021 to comply with the new requirements for the Nutrition Facts Label.

While these changes are positive, I’d recommend the addition of exercise equivalents for calorie amounts as well. For example, chicken wings might state, “Four chicken wings have about 375 calories. It takes roughly one hour of jogging for a 150-pound person to burn that amount of calories.” If you saw that on a food label, would it influence your decision to purchase and eat it? Now that’s food for thought.

Amanda Burleson, RD – Education & Certifications
Bachelor of Science in Dietetics
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Weight Management Certified
ACSM Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist
ACE Certified Health Coach

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