Four changes to food labels key to better nutrition

Serving sizes listed on labels will be more realistic

SAN ANTONIO – Food labels have gotten a makeover, the first major overhaul in more than 20 years.

There are four key changes that should help you make better choices, according to Consumer Reports’ health experts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has put new food-label regulations in place based on new health and nutrition research.

With some simple changes, such as bolder type and the adjustment of serving sizes, it’s going to be a lot easier for consumers who want to eat healthier to lower their risk for heart disease and other conditions.

Here are four important changes that will help you pick the best foods for your health.

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First, the serving sizes are more realistic, with amounts for some foods reflecting what people really eat. Another example? If a package holds two or three servings but there’s a good chance someone would eat it all in one sitting, such as a bag of popcorn, the label must show nutrition info for one serving and the whole package.

A second change focuses on vitamin D and potassium. Because Americans don’t get enough vitamin D, which is important for bone health, and potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure, they’re now listed instead of vitamins A and C, which are already plentiful in most people’s diets.

The calorie count now will be featured in big, bold type.

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And now manufacturers may have more of an incentive to reduce the amount of added sugar in their products.

There has always been a line for sugars -- referring to both naturally occurring sweeteners plus the ones added in, like granulated sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. The FDA now requires that added sugars be included on a separate line.

Consumer Reports adds that sugar substitutes go by a lot of different names, like sucralose, stevia, or sugar alcohols like sorbitol or mannitol. Now that manufacturers have an incentive to lower the sugars they add, you may start to see more of these non-nutritive sweeteners pop up in the ingredients list, so it’s good to watch out for them.

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