Post was written by Lindsay Stenovec MS, RD, CLEC, a mom, registered dietitian nutritionist, lactation educator, and member of Plum’s Wellness Advisory Panel.
For the first time in more than 20 years, the Nutrition Facts label has gotten a makeover to help guide consumers in making informed decisions about the foods and beverages they consume. At first glance, the labels may not look all that different, and many of the families I work with often tell me how confusing they can be to understand, so let’s take a closer look at some key changes that will help you feel like a pro on your next trip to the grocery store.
Calories and Serving Sizes
Calories are now listed in a bigger, bolder font at the top of the label – this is the amount of calories in one serving. Serving sizes have also taken a more prominent position at the top of the label to help make it easier to locate this important information. Some serving sizes have been updated to better reflect the amount someone might eat in one sitting. With that said, how much your child eats depends on a lot of different factors like hunger, what foods are offered, and time of day. Sometimes kids will have mighty appetites, and other times they won’t – serving sizes won’t be able to predict that. So, think of calories and serving sizes as a guide to help put together adequate meals and snacks, or to ensure you’re grabbing enough food when on the go so you aren’t left with hangry kiddos!
Daily Values (or DVs for short) tell you how much of a nutrient should be consumed on a daily basis, and % DV tells you how much of a nutrient in one product serving contributes to the total daily diet. The Daily Values you see listed on food labels are based on 1,000 calories per day for children ages 1-3, and 2,000 calories per day for children 4 and older. But, this does not mean that you need to spend your days counting calories. As a general rule of thumb, I suggest that parents focus on offering consistent, reliable and adequate meals and snacks throughout the day, allowing children to eat according to their appetite. That means there will be days where your child eats more, and days where they will eat less.
Total, Added and Naturally-Occurring Sugars
Sugar is always a hot topic in my office. Added Sugar? Naturally-Occurring? What’s the difference? As a dietitian and mom, I was happy to see a new line added below “total sugar” for “added sugar” on the updated label. Added sugars, found in sweeteners like honey, cane sugar and maple syrup, provide texture, flavor and consistency to foods, while naturally-occurring sugars are found in foods like grains, dairy products, and fruit. To determine the amount of naturally-occurring sugar in a food, subtract added sugars from total sugars. While your body processes added sugars and naturally-occurring sugars the same way, many food sources with naturally-occurring sugars also contain other beneficial nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. For example, when you eat an apple, in addition to the naturally-occurring sugar, you also get fiber and vitamin C. While all sugars can be part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation, aim for those that come primarily from naturally-occurring sources.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that the new Nutrition Facts label has been redesigned to better guide you in putting a balanced diet together for your family. Keep in mind there’s no need to meticulously monitor your child’s intake – in fact, that could bring much-unneeded stress to your feeding experience. Use the Nutrition Facts label to ensure you’re offering foods with a range of nutrients. And best of all, focus on making meals and snacks an opportunity to savor and explore tasty foods together as a family.
For more details, visit the FDA’s Changes to the Nutrition Facts label information page.