Just last month, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the modernized nutrition facts label for packaged foods, which reflects the latest science, the most relevant nutrition information and an updated design.
The nutrition facts label is found on nearly 800,000 products and has not been significantly updated since its initial release 20 years ago. With nearly 77 percent of US adults reporting using the nutrition facts label when buying a food product, the revised label is an incredible step in helping to make choosing healthier products easier for American families.
With consumers increasingly looking for transparency, quality and sustainability in the foods they eat, this step by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a significant achievement. Key changes include a larger font for the calorie count and more realistic serving sizes.
Most importantly, this label explains how much sugar was added during processing and how much of it comes from natural ingredients like fruit. Over the past 30 years, Americans have steadily consumed more and more added sugars in their diets, which has contributed to the obesity epidemic. Reducing the amount of added sugars we eat cuts calories and can help improve heart health and control weight.
Earlier this year, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were also introduced. Informed by a critical and transparent review of scientific evidence on nutrition, the Dietary Guidelines provides a clear path to help Americans eat healthfully. A new edition is published every five years to reflect advancements in scientific knowledge and translate the science current at the time into sound food-based guidance to promote health in the United States.
The process to develop the Dietary Guidelines has also evolved and now includes three main stages: review the evidence, develop the Dietary Guidelines and implement the guidelines. Healthy eating is one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce the onset of disease. The recommendations can help you make informed choices about eating for you and your family.
These key accomplishments by the federal government provide information and transparency for consumers when purchasing products and feeding their families. With the food industry playing a critical role in what families are eating, these achievements will impact the industry as well. Companies will be required to comply, adding the updated label to their products, within two years from May 20, 2016. Manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to comply. Look out for these new labels on your favorite products soon!
The way we eat, the kind of food we buy, where we get it, how it’s prepared and how it’s priced all play a role in reforming our food system to make it one that supports the health and wellbeing of all Americans. Everyone—the private sector, government, health professionals, schools and individuals—has a part to play in making healthy choices easier, more accessible and more affordable. While these improvements provide great progress, everyone must continue to work collectively to make access to healthy, transparent and affordable food available to all people.
Use these new guidelines as you create summer dinners and plan your Shabbat and holiday menus, ensuring they balance delicious holiday traditions with healthful alternatives for you and your families to enjoy. Instead of a traditional sweet potato soufflé, try adding whole, sweet fall vegetables, like a medley of roasted sweet potatoes, butternut squash and carrots, drizzled with olive oil and no added sugar, to your Rosh Hashanah menu. A healthy new year starts right at your table.
Top photo: First Lady Michelle Obama presents the new nutrition facts label just over a month ago.