What You Need To Know About The FDA's New Nutritional Guidelines

An overview of the much-needed update.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced several changes to the nutrition labels that we see on packaged food. These updates reflect changes in dietary needs in the US population as well as updated scientific information from the last label update in 1993.

Though the new label doesn't look too terribly different, there are some key changes worth noting.

Comparison of old nutrition label and new requirements.
Comparison of old nutrition label and new requirements. FDA

The most notable change is the format, which features the calories per serving, serving size, and the number of servings in the container much more prominently than before. 

The serving size is not only more prominently displayed, but what qualifies as a "serving" has been updated as well. New servings are larger and more reflective of how much a person realistically eats at once. Of course, this changes the number of calories in the serving, so if a beloved food item suddenly starts showing more calories per serving than it did in the past, it's likely because the serving size itself is larger.

Another notable change is the way sugar is listed. Not only will the amount and the percentage of the recommended daily value be listed, but the amount of added sugar will be listed as well. High sugar consumption is related to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer, and many companies sneak in an incredible amount of added sugar.

There has also been a shift in what nutrients must appear on the label. Iron and calcium will remain on the label, but potassium and vitamin D will take the place of vitamins A and C. Of course, companies can list additional nutrients if they want to.

Food companies will have until July 2018 to change all of their packaging, with smaller companies getting additional time. 

As the obesity epidemic rages on, it is hoped that these change will help people understand exactly what they're eating so that they can make smarter, more sensible choices.