How to Read the New Nutrition Facts Tables in 6 easy steps.
How to Read the New Nutrition Facts Tables
The Nutrition Facts table is on the side of most packaged foods. It’s often found close to the ingredient listing.
The purpose of it is to help consumers make better nutrition decisions. When people can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, they should be able to eat better, right?
Whether you like the Nutrition Facts table or not, let’s make sure you get the most out of it, since it’s here to stay!
Here’s my six-step crash course on reading the Nutrition Facts table.
Step 1: Serving Size
The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Facts table is to note the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. So, it's tricky.
All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products.
Servings per container shows the total number of serving sizes in the entire package.
Whats NEW ..... ?
~ Servings per container and serving size will now be Bigger and Bolder.
~By July 26,2018 serving sizes will be more consistent between similar foods. This will make it easier to compare foods.
~The new labels will also have more realistic serving sizes to reflect the amount that people eat in one sitting, and not be artificially small.
Let’s use an example - plain, unsalted walnuts from Costco. (see picture above)
As you can see, right under the Nutrition Facts header is the serving size. That is a ¼ cup or 30 g. This means that all the numbers underneath it are based on this amount.
FUN EXPERIMENT: Try using a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised at how small it is (imagine a ¼ cup of walnuts).
* when you comparing calories, fats, carbohydrates and all other nutrients in a food be sure to to check the serving sizes so you can make an accurate comparison.
Step 2: Calories- Calories are pretty straight forward. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 200 calories. This reflects the total number of calories from all nutrients in one serving size
not the entire container.
~Calories will now be in a larger font and bolded.
~ Calories from fat on (shown on old labels)will be removed, because research shows the type of fat you consume is more important and has more impact on your body than the amount of fat consumed.
Step 3: % Daily Value
The % Daily Value (%DV) is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day. This is added up based on all of the foods and drinks you have throughout the day.
NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.
The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule.
You don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15-20% or more should be considered high for a serving.
NOTE: Not every nutrient has a %DV. You can see it's missing for things like cholesterol, sugar, and protein. This is because there isn't an agreed "official" %DV for that nutrient. The good news is that the new Nutrition Facts tables will include a %DV for sugar. Keep your eyes out for that.
Step 4: Middle of the table (e.g.fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein)
Fat is bolded for a reason. That 19 g of fat (29% DV) is total fat. That includes the non-bolded items underneath it. Here, 19 g of total fat includes 1.5 g saturated fat, (19 g - 1.5 g = 17.5 g) unsaturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. (Yes, unsaturated fats including mono- and poly-unsaturated are not on the label, so you need to do a quick subtraction).
Cholesterol, sodium, and potassium are all measured in mg. Ideally, aim for around 100% of potassium and sodium each day. It's easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you (e.g. if your doctor mentioned it, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.).
Carbohydrate, like fat, is bolded because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bolded items underneath it like fiber, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 3 g of carbohydrates; that 3 g are all fiber. There is no sugar or starch in the above product. And as you can see, 3 g of fiber is 12% of your daily value for fiber.
Sugars is the total sugar- Natural and added combined in a product.
Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts contains 5 g of protein.
~ ADDED SUGARS will now be added to the food label !!!!! In my opinion one of the best things to be added~ Just saying :) You want to aim for less than 10% of your total diet in added sugars a day.
Step 5: Bottom of the table (e.g. vitamins & minerals)
The vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the table are also straightforward.
~ Vitamins A and C will be no longer required on nutrition labels, because studies have shown it is very rare to have a deficiency in these vitamins.
~ Vitamins D and Potassium will required because studies have shown a large percent of people are deficient in these vitamins.
Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table (this is optional). And you'll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.
Step 6: Ingredients List
This can be an entire article in itself, but let me keep it simple here for today.
The ingredient list will show each ingredient in the food by defending order of weight.
Many manufactures will try and trick you here by using different products as the same "value" so it appears there is less of it in the product. Sugars is a big one. But I'm so happy added sugars are now going to be added in the facts section of the label making it easier to make a healthier choice.
Bottom line .... Use the nutrient label to get more of the nutrients you want and less of the nutrients you don't want.
I hope this crash course in the Nutrition Facts table was helpful. While you can take it or leave it when it comes to making food decisions, it’s here to stay. And it will change slightly over the next few years.
Do you have questions about it? Have you seen the new labels with a %DV for sugar? If so, leave me a comment below.