Meet the New Nutrition Labels
By: Text: Milton Stokes, RD
There are signs of progress in labeling: Food companies are moving key numbers found on nutrition labels to the front—and enlarging. Many are based on a food-industry version of government's Daily Values, called Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA). The acronyms don't matter as much as the numbers, which can be helpful—no magnifying glass required.
Covers calories, fat, sodium, and sugar, plus two "good" nutrients from grain-based foods, like fiber and folic acid. Useful if you're keeping an eye on sodium, which can be high in some breads.
Means it meets AHA standards (some of which are stricter than the USDA's). A food with this label is low in total fat, sat fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium—and high in calcium, iron, fiber, protein, or vitamins A and C.
Found on foods with less calories, fat, sugar, or sodium than similar, less light products—on lightly salted nuts, for example, with only 95mg sodium. It also appears on a kid's lunch meal with 760mg sodium, though, so pay attention to the totals.
Indicates at least 8g whole grains per serving. "100%" designation denotes 16g or more, and that all grains are whole. (Your daily goal: 48g.) Not all manufacturers use this stamp, however.
Highlights GDAs for things like fat, sodium, and fiber, and lists calories and sugar per serving. Sugar's the one to watch, although there's no DV for it—it would be nice to see labels on all manufactured foods that listed added sugar per serving.
Puts calories per serving in big, bold type on front of pack—nice—and tells you what % that is of the calorie DV, the standard 2,000-calorie-per-day benchmark used on food labels.