Changes are coming to your nutrition labels. Over the next three years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will make changes to the Nutrition Facts Label that appears on the side or back of processed and packaged foods.
These changes include larger font for important information like serving size and calories, as well as more detailed information about the amount of nutrients in each item.
One of the most notable changes is the addition of the amount of added sugar in an item. Currently, the Nutrition Facts label just reports how much sugar is in an item. This sugar could be added or naturally occurring.
“The new food label will include the amount of added sugar,” says Lindsey Wohlford, employee wellness dietitian at MD Anderson. “Sugar is hidden in a lot of processed foods, such as yogurt, bread, cereal and almost any other food that comes in a package. This will make it more obvious. It makes the Nutrition Facts label a lot more user-friendly.”
Added vs. natural sugar
Natural sugar is naturally found in foods like fruits, vegetables and dairy products, which are packed with nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals that are crucial to a healthy diet.
But added sugar – the kind that’s hidden in processed foods -- has long been tied to obesity and increased cancer risk.
But added sugars just add calories without any benefit for your health. Too much sugar can result in weight gain. Weight gain can lead to obesity. And obesity is linked to several types of cancer, including breast, colon and uterine cancers. Sugar also has been tied to the spread of cancer and cancer recurrence in some instances.
How much sugar should you have?
The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons (100 calories) of added sugar per day for women and nine teaspoons (150 calories) per day for men.
But many Americans consume much more than that. The average person eats about 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
“Hopefully the new Nutrition Facts labels will make consumers more aware of how much sugar they’re taking in and encourage them to cut back,” Wohlford says. “Sugary foods are tempting, but they don’t provide much when it comes to nutrition.”
Eat less added sugar
Trying to cut added sugar? Wohlford offers this advice:
- Eat more fresh foods. Processed foods often contain more sugar. The sugar is used to preserve the food. This goes for many canned fruits and vegetables too.
- Shop on the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where you’ll find most of the fresh foods.
- Read the label. Check to see how much sugar is in an item and read the ingredients. Reconsider the item if sugar is one of the first three ingredients listed. Learn the names of other sweeteners, like corn syrup, fructose, maltose, dextrose or cane syrup.
- Drink water. Soda and other drinks can be loaded with sugar, so check the label. Try to drink more water instead.
“A little bit of sugar goes a long way,” Wohlford says. “It’s important to try to watch your sugar intake so you can maintain a healthy weight and prevent cancer and other chronic diseases associated with sugar consumption.”