The new nutrition label can help you lose weight if you know what to look for and how you can use it to your advantage. These labels are on the side of most packaged foods and can be found close to the ingredient listing.
The purpose of it is to help consumers, like you, make better nutrition decisions. When you can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, you should be able to make better food choices, right?
The update has come because the old label was over 20 years old! Whether you like the label or not, it’s here to stay, so let’s make sure you get the most out of it.
Let’s dive right into my four-step crash course on how the Nutrition Label can help you lose weight.
Step 1: Serving Size
The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Facts table to take note of is 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.
I know that cereal is a food that most people eat (or have eaten). Have you ever paid attention to the serving size of cereal? Most of the time it’s pretty small. Some cereals I’ve seen are just 1/2-3/4 c for a serving. Then you add milk on top of that & it’s quickly going to add up (and leave you hungry in a couple of hours).
All the information in the table you see on packages is based on the serving size. In case you don’t know, every manufacturer chooses their own serving size. This can make it difficult to compare two products from different companies. Using cereal as an example…One cereal might be 1/2 c per serving and one cereal might be 1 1/2 c per serving. I’m just sayin’, don’t assume that because the serving size is one thing for one company that it’s the same across the board.
The new labels are supposed to start reflecting more realistic serving sizes that people eat in one sitting, and not be artificially small. In the past, labels showed recommended amounts, but it has now changed to a typical serving size. You may notice this change if you buy ice cream. The serving size used to be 1/2 c for 1 serving, now the serving size has been changed is 2/3 c.
To keep things simple for you, I’ll be referring to plain, unsalted walnuts from Costco for all the examples in this article.
You can see, right under the Nutrition Facts header, the serving size is listed. The serving sizes are listed in familiar units, followed by metric measurements (usually grams). For this bag of walnuts, the serving size is ¼ cup or 30 g. The entire package has 45 servings. Paying attention to the serving size (and measuring your serving) is one way the new nutrition label can help you lose weight.
Everything listed below the serving size (calories, fat, carbs, etc.) is based on the serving size for the specific food.
FUN EXPERIMENT: Try using a measuring cup or weigh the food to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised to see how small it is (just ¼ cup of walnuts isn’t as much as you think).
Step 2: % Daily Value
The % Daily Value (%DV) listed are for the average adult and children over the age of 4. The %DV is based on the recommended daily amount of key nutrients for a 2,000 calorie diet. (Take note: The %DV will change if you eat more or less than 2k calories/day.) Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day. This adds up based on all of the foods and drinks you take in 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, those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.
The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule. So, you don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less is low; and, anything 20% or more is high.
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 Nutrition Facts tables do include a %DV for added sugar. It’s recommended to aim for less than 10% of your total daily calories come from added sugar.
Paying attention to the %DV part of the new nutrition label can help you lose weight because it can help you keep an eye on reaching your recommended amounts of nutrition. Example: If you eat a food that is 10%DV of fat, one that is 20%, one that is 10% and one that’s a whopping 50%DV then you’ve hit your recommended amount of fat for the day. Remember, it changes if you eat more or less than 2k calories/day.
Step 3: Middle of the table
Now on to the middle of the table where you’ll find calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein. Calories are now large & bold so they’re easy to spot. Plus, they’re pretty straight forward. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 200 calories.
Next, you’ll see fat is bolded. This is because it is the total fat. So, the 19 g of fat (29% DV) your total fat. This number includes the non-bolded items underneath it. For this serving of walnuts, 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’ll need to do a quick subtraction).
Moving down just at little, cholesterol and sodium are measured in mg. Ideally, aim for around 100% of potassium and sodium each day. Sodium is really easy to overdo, 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.).
Just like fat, Carbohydrate is bolded because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bolded items underneath it like fiber, sugar, total sugar. Here, 30 g of walnuts contains 3 g of carbohydrates; the 3 g is all fiber. There is no sugar or added sugar. Then you can look to the right of that and see, 3 g of fiber is 12% of your daily value for fiber (so you’d still need 88%DV to reach 100% DV of your fiber).
The next bolded section you’ll find is protein, and like calories, are pretty straight forward too. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts contains 5 g of protein. Remember, there is not a %DV for protein.
This section of the new nutrition label can help you lose weight because it makes it easier to track your macros (a.k.a. protein, carbs, and fat). If you keep an eye on these to aid your weight loss, you’ll find with the new labels, they’re easier to spot at a quick glance.
Step 4: Bottom of the table
The last section includes required and optional nutrients (vitamins and minerals). The new labels require vitamin D, calcium, iron & potassium to be listed because most Americans do not get the recommended amounts. Vitamins A & C will no longer be required because deficiencies of these vitamins are rare.
Manufacturers still have the option to add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table if they choose. You may also notice some foods will contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.
You may wonder if the nutrients on the new nutrition label can help you lose weight. Well, nutrients won’t exactly help you lose weight, but if you’re deficient in important nutrients, you are at an increased risk for chronic disease. Chronic disease = inflammation = harder to lose weight.
This was definitely a crash course on how the new Nutrition Facts can help you lose weight and I hope the explanation was helpful. You may choose to use it or not, but the new labels will be in effect for every food manufacturer by January 1, 2021.
Do you have questions about it? Have you seen the new labels with a %DV for added sugar? If so, leave me a comment below.