How to Read the FDA’s New Food Label

If you are a label reader, you may have noticed some changes to food labels recently. In 2016, the FDA announced the food label would get a makeover­­—with the hopes that this new label will make it easier for consumers to make better informed food choices. The current nutrition label is more than 20 years old. The changes that will be made, according to the FDA, are based on updated scientific information, new nutrition and public health research, more recent dietary recommendations from expert groups and input from the public.

The current nutrition label is more than 20 years old—but its makeover will help consumers make better-informed food choices.

The changes you will see include:

  • increase in type size for “Calories,” “servings per container” and “serving size”
  • bolding the number of calories and serving size
  • including “added sugars” in grams and as percent Daily Value
  • updating the list of nutrients permitted or required


US Food and Drug Administration

What do these changes mean?

Let’s take a closer look at why these changes are happening and how they will affect the way we read food labels.

Serving Size

Serving sizes are based on amounts of foods and beverages people are eating, not what they should be eating. The previous serving size requirements were published in 1993, and how much we eat and drink now has changed. For example, the reference amount used for a serving of ice cream was previously 1/2 cup but is changing to 2/3 cup because that’s more likely the amount someone will eat at one time.

Packaging Size

Package size also affects what people eat. So for packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20-ounce soda or a 15-ounce can of soup, the FDA now requires that calories and other nutrients be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.

For certain products that are larger than a single serving but that could be consumed either in one sitting or over time, manufacturers will have to provide “dual-column labels” to indicate the amount of calories and nutrients both per serving and per package. Examples would be a 24-ounce bottle of soda or a pint of ice cream. The hope is with dual-column labels available, people will be able to more easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package at one time.

US Food and Drug Administration

Added Sugars

You will also see “Added sugars” in grams and as percent Daily Value. Scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar. The FDA will continue to require “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat” and “Trans Fat” on the label but will remove “Calories from Fat” because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.

Nutrients

The FDA is updating the list of nutrients that are required or permitted to be declared. Vitamin D and potassium will be required on the label. Calcium and iron will continue to be required. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required but can be included on a voluntary basis. Vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium are required to be shown in actual amount and percent Daily Value. Other vitamins and minerals can be shown as well in gram amount. The footnote is also changed to better explain what percent Daily Value means. It will read: “*The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”

US Food and Drug Administration

Questions?

When will you see all packages with this new food label? The FDA set a compliance date for July 2018 with an additional year to comply for smaller manufacturers. So be on the lookout.

For more information you can go to the FDA’s website.

 

Practicing Environmental Control: Work & Home

You must have healthy foods available in order to eat them. Bringing foods into your environment that have the lowest calorie “price tags” is a great starting point. By doing this, you are essentially making healthier food choices earlier than you might normally because you are being proactive in your environment instead of reactive.

So let’s begin this environmental control for your home and work by asking yourself…

  • Do you have foods/snacks that don’t provide a lot of food for the calories?
  • What is something you ate at home or work that gave you a lot of food for the calories?
  • Identify a specific time(s) of day or situation when you more likely to eat higher calorie foods.

Learning to anticipate your challenges and then reducing your caloric intake by the choices you make can help to reduce your calories for the whole day. Without structure, there’s’ almost no ceiling as to how high the calories can go.

Try bringing these healthier foods into your home and work environment…

  • Place a bowl of mixed fruit on the counter, on your desk or eye level in your fridge
  • Buy several bags of frozen fruit to mix into different foods
  • Stock your car and desk drawer with ‘hand fruit’ – apples, bananas, plums, grapes, etc.
  • Prepare a large bowl of cut up fresh, frozen or canned fruit salad
  • Purchase several bags of frozen vegetables
  • Purchase ‘pop top’ canned fruit
  • Peal and cup up fruit and put in ready to go containers.
  • At work, bring the fruit and vegetables with you daily. I encourage you to strive to bring a minimum of 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables to work daily.

The more supportive foods you have on the counter at home, in the fridge, on your desk at work, in your car…essentially, anywhere you are, the more likely you’ll be able to prevent the higher calorie/higher fat foods from sneaking in your diet. Removing temptation/triggering foods and replacing them with some suggestions above, will have you feeling more in control of your environment and diet.

Practicing Environmental Control: Restaurants

Controlling our environment in order to successfully manage our weight and health is not always possible, but we can arm ourselves with a strategy. Unplanned, unstructured eating leads to eating out more which ultimately ends in weight gain and unhealthy habits.

Here are some tips to try when eating out:

  • Eat something healthy before you go. If you go to restaurants when you’re hungry, you’re more likely to snack on higher calories appetizers and bread and less likely to order healthier food options.
  • Carefully choose which restaurant to go to; some restaurants are more supportive with health goals than others.
  • Have a plan before you go of what you are going to eat.
  • Be direct in asking for your meal to be prepared with less or no oil. Restaurants are often not accustomed to special, low-fat request, though they are generally willing to accommodate them.
  • If ordering take-out, be very clear about your request for lo-fat preparation.
  • Avoid fried foods, ask for baked, broiled or grilled, instead.
  • Many vegetables including salad, can become high calorie with added dressings, sauces, and condiments. You can potentially save hundreds of calories by asking for low or no-fat sauces or condiments and always ask for it on the side!
  • Given that many side orders of vegetables are small, you may need to order several or make a request for a larger portion. (Remember your #plategoals)
  • Be the first in your group to order your food, so as not to be deterred by what others are ordering.
  • Remember why you are eating out, is it for a celebration or is it just a Wednesday evening?

 

Practicing Environmental Control: The Grocery Store

Managing environmental cues or as I like to call it, practicing Environmental Control, in the grocery store may seem easy, but is actually quite challenging. A basic misconception is that food-related decisions are consciously and deliberately made. The reality is, food choices are often an automated response. Sometimes choices made may even be the opposite of what the person would consciously prefer. How, you ask? Let’s take a look at a prime example: food placement traps.

Practicing Environmental Control: The Grocery Store

End of aisle location accounts for about 30% of all grocery sales. Vendors pay special fees for these spots and placement which can increase sales by a factor of five. Research using eye tracking equipment shows the attention drawn by special displays has more to do with the display itself rather than the goals of someone who selects them. Furthermore, people who lack the capacity to fully control eye-gaze and look the longest will be more likely to purchase those items.

So, how do we go about practicing environmental control in the grocery store?

  • Have an awareness that marketing is focused on selling foods that are not necessarily good for you.
  • Make a plan
  • Make a grocery list
  • Be aware of the ‘bad’ food placement traps
  • Don’t shop hungry
  • Do NOT under any circumstance ‘window shop’ junk food – don’t venture or gaze into the difficult areas.
  • Purchase fruits and/or vegetables at every grocery store visit
  • Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables if you have a plan for immediate use, otherwise look for canned or frozen variety.
  • Don’t read labels in the stores – this can be too taxing and cognitively stressing. Study labels thoroughly at home, so when you need to compare in the store you know what you are looking at.

To help you get started on the right track, I encourage you this week to go grocery shopping and make a plan that includes a specific list for vegetables and fruits and a more specific plan to substitute a new fruit or vegetable for any usual white carbohydrate item you purchase. Happy Shopping!

Your Diet and your Job: A perfect marriage or recipe for disaster?

When it comes to relationships (with people, food and even health habits), we are greatly influenced by those closest to us. In fact, many experts believe that our habits are shaped by the five people we spend the most time with. This illustrates how powerful of an impact social influence and our environment has on our daily decisions. We cannot blame all our poor decisions on others or our work setting, but I completely understand how the influence of others and demands of our jobs can make it difficult to stay on track with healthy eating. Here are some common traps and possible solutions to help get you through your 40-hour workweek, healthy and guilt-free.

Here are some common traps and possible solutions to help get you through your 40-hour workweek, healthy and guilt-free.

Problem: It’s Andy’s Birthday and that means cake, cookies and other Pinterest-inspired sugar villains.

Solution:Learn to confidently say “no thanks”.
Normally I say it’s perfectly fine to indulge on special occasions; however, special occasions such as birthdays, retirements, Fridays happen every week. In fact, we create special occasions such as “national eat chocolate for breakfast day” to justify eating sugar-rich foods. Try to separate work celebrations and personal celebrations and save those yummy treats for your own milestones. Here’s another trick I like to practice. Stand up tall and turn your head all the way to the left, now look all the way to the right and repeat this motion four more times. As silly as it sounds, remember it is perfectly fine to politely turn down sweets brought into the office.

Problem: Lunch meetings.

Solution: Become a savvier diner.
It is very common to go out to eat for social or business purposes during the week. You could always stay behind and eat your lunch by yourself, but where’s the fun in that? Learning to spot out the healthier items on a menu or give less-healthy menu items a makeover is a much savvier way to enjoy your lunch break. You can never go wrong with lean proteins and veggies. It’s also a good idea to make sure you do not have multiple starches on your plate. This may mean removing the buns from a chicken sandwich or swapping out fries for an extra serving of seasonal vegetables.

Problem: That 3:00 slump.

Solution: Prepare for the inevitable.
It happens every single day, so why do we repeatedly torture ourselves with blood sugar crashes followed by poor vending machine decisions? Packing a protein-rich afternoon snack will keep your tummy happy, your focus off the clock and get you through to dinner time without a starving metabolism. The downfall of pretzels, crackers, baked chips and granola bars is that they contain very little nutritional value and zero amounts of protein. In fact, it’s difficult to find a protein-rich snack from a vending machine or office snack bar. Always keep nuts or protein bars at work or pack some extra cheese, meat, cottage cheese, low sugar Greek yogurt, eggs or a protein shake in your lunch bag. One ounce of peanuts, 2 ounces of turkey and 1 ounce of cheese together provides almost 30 grams of protein!

 

 

How to Make a Healthy Seasonal Transition

Spring is around the corner, but for now the days still seem short and it’s important to take note of how this affects your health and state of mind. Here are some tips I recommend to my patients to combat the dreariness of the winter season.

Here are some tips I recommend to my patients to combat the dreariness of the winter season.

  1. Transition physical activity from season to season, don’t abandon it!

  • Use inside equipment or a DVD; I like to recommend Leslie Sansone walking DVDs.
  • Find a friend or social component to physical activity.
  • Move more throughout your day – 10% (6 minutes/hour).
  • Invest in clothes to make it comfortable.
  1. Develop a repertoire of healthy, ‘hearty’ foods for the season.

  • Soups, stews, stir fries and roasted vegetables (check out my blog from earlier on roasted vegetables)
  • Choose heavier food, literally water based, not calorie dense food.
  • Choose/mix heartier, starchy vegetables (Yes, I said starchy vegetables) with lower calorie ones to satisfy your need for carbs.
  • If this is not your habit, practice it weekly.
  1. Get adequate rest and sleep.

  • Try to go to bed about the same time every evening.
  1. Stay hydrated.

  • Carry a water bottle with you to sip on throughout the day.
  • You don’t need to get all your water from drinks; you can also get it from water-rich foods.
  • Opt for steamed dishes, soups and herbal teas to keep you warm, because often cooler temps will decrease your natural tendency to drink.
  1. Find the Light.

  • Develop an awareness of how you may be affected by shorter, darker days.
  • Keeping your home or work place well lit with natural, window light and artificial light can help some people feel more energy.
  • Some invest in light therapy.
  1. Begin a conscious management of your food environment.

  • Try eating 6 times per day: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack
  • Plate the food at the stove or in the kitchen
  • Use the #plategoals (1/4 protein, ¼ carbohydrate, ½ non-starchy vegetables) to plate your food
  • Eat a minimum of 5 servings of vegetables/fruits per day
  • Say not your ‘trigger foods’ (you know what they are!!)
  • Stop clipping coupons – they are mostly for highly refined snack products or high fat restaurant meals

Don’t let these short days defeat your goals and decrease energy levels; try to remind yourself daily what you are trying to accomplish. Remember, spring is just around the corner!