Nearly four years after we first told you about it, nutrition labels are finally changing. Calories are more prominent, “added sugars” is in while “calories from fat” is out, and the serving size is, in many cases, the whole package. Welcome to the future.
The changes were supposed to take effect years ago, but the deadline got pushed back. It’s in effect now for large companies, and small companies need to get their act together by January of next year.
Nobody cares about calories from fat anymore
The old labels were designed in the 1990s, when it was standard advice to limit calories from fat to about a third of your total calories. But the total amount of fat in your diet doesn’t actually matter that much, so that rule of thumb isn’t very helpful.
Fat grams are still on the label, so if you really want to make this calculation, just multiply the number of fat grams by 9.
Added sugars are now required
The old labels told you how much sugar was in a food, but they didn’t differentiate between the sugars that naturally occur (for example, in an apple) and those that are added (for example, sugar or corn syrup used to sweeten applesauce).
Added sugar isn’t nutritionally different from naturally occurring sugar—it’s the same substance, chemically—but foods with added sugar tend to have more empty calories, and seeing the number gives us more transparency about how our foods are processed.
Serving sizes make more sense
Serving sizes for some foods have changed. For example, a serving of ice cream used to be a pretty unrealistic half cup. Now, it’s up to 2/3 of a cup, which is…still a bit optimistic, but better.
The best part, though, is that many packages now have to display the calories and nutrients per package. So you may see dual-column labels, with calories per serving alongside the calories in the entire thing.
Some companies are still catching up
Some companies rejiggered their labels months or years ago; others just got on board as of January. But smaller companies, those that do less than $US10 ($15) million in food sales annually, have until January of 2021 to update their labels. We’re in an awkward transition period now, but soon the new labels will be the norm.