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Just the facts

Nutrition labels on products are updated

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Anne Cundiff, Corporate Hy-Vee dietician said there are a lot of options available to assist their clients and Hy-Vee customers on their journey to a healthier way of life.

For the first time in two decades, the Nutrition Facts label found on all packaged foods is getting an update.

The new label, which started appearing on Jan. 1 is expected to be on all packaged foods by the end of the year.

“There are concerns that have been raised over the years with dietary guidelines and the label had not been changed for 20 years,” said Anne Cundiff, Corporate Hy-Vee dietician. “It has been awhile and things have definitely evolved over the last couple of decades.”

Changes include prioritizing dominance of certain segments of the label and some new additions.

Serving size

Cundiff said the dominance of the serving size on the label has been changed. The new labels will show the serving size in a large, bold font.

“This is so people are more aware of what an actual serving is of foods,” she said. “People are not quite paying attention to that as much as calories and other nutritional information.”

Included in the area is the number of servings per container, which is nothing new on a nutrition label, but its placement is.

“Servings per container has always been on the label, but it is not the first thing under the nutritional facts,” said Cundiff. “They have prioritized that so people know if they eat the whole container how many servings are in that container. They are giving it more presence over the actual serving size which was always before the servings per container.”

Calories

Calories will also be shown in a larger, bolder font.

“In the past, all of the nutrition label was the same font size,” said Cundiff. “They increased that font size and bolded so the consumer will actually see that number be bolder and larger for them to read , basically so people are more aware of actual calorie amount than just bypassing it.”

Cundiff said she has often noticed her clients bypassing the calorie count and looking at other facts on the label instead, such as fat and sugar.

“Calories are just as important as those constituents,” she said.

Fats

Cundiff said how fat is listed on the nutrition label has been changed as well.

On the previous label there was calories from fat next to the total calorie count.

“They actually eliminated that because research shows the type of fat is more important than the total calories from fat,” she said. “They want to separate out more the source of fat. People pay more attention to that saturated fat content and that trans-fat content.”

Added sugars

The first major change is in the carbohydrate section of the nutrition label, Cundiff said where they have included an area for added sugars.

This section is a little bit further down the nutrition label and located under carbohydrates, fiber and total sugars.

Some foods naturally contain sugar, such as fruits and dairy. This new addition to the label helps consumers see how much sugar is naturally present and how much is added.

“Basically this is going to be sugar that naturally occurs in the process,” she said. “Most labels have the processed added sugar that is used to make that product taste better, they do not include added sugar from honey, cane sugar – any type of natural sugar. It doesn’t matter if it is organic sugar, it is added sugar regardless. It doesn’t differentiate from the types of sugar and not one sugar is going to be differentiated as better than the other.”

Cundiff said we are consuming massive amounts of added sugar in our foods. It is becoming more apparent through the data and research that it is difficult for people to meet their nutritional needs and stay within their calorie needs if they consume more than 10% of other daily calories from added sugar.

“It is making people more aware of how much added sugar there actually is in a lot of our products,” she said.

Potassium and Vitamin D

There has been a change up in what vitamins and minerals must be on the label. Potassium and Vitamin D will now be a required part of the nutrition label whereas Vitamins A and C will no longer be required to be listed, and calcium and iron will remain on the label.

This change is due because research has shown people need to consume more of these nutrients.

“Vitamin D has been added, which we have found to be a very important vitamin that a lot of us are not consuming enough of – especially here in Iowa,” Cundiff said. “It is hard to find foods with Vitamin D in them and where we live we don’t get much from the sun. That has been added to the label, which I find very important.”

How does someone know if they need to include more Vitamin D into their diet?

“That is kind of tricky,” she said. “As a dietician, from my perspective, if people think they are deficient, get those levels checked by a physician.”

As far as foods rich in Vitamin D, Cundiff said they include dairy products and mushrooms, however the majority of our Vitamin D we get is from the sun.

“It is just good to check to see if there is a deficiency and if you might need supplements,” she said.

Cundiff said there has been an increased concern of people with potassium needs to help with heart, kidney and variety of different health conditions.

Overall, Cundiff said she is pleased with the updates made to the Nutrition Facts label.

“I think it is very positive,” she said. “I have the opportunity to spend time with people and go over the nutrition label, but for the average consumer that doesn’t have access to a retail dietician or expert to show them, for them to be able to look at what the most important thing on a nutrition label is and by making those things more bolder and little bit more apparent, people are going to be a little more apt to pay attention to those.”

Healthy trends for 2021

Cundiff said immunity seems to be at the forefront of many people’s minds.

“A lot of people don’t understand immunity health starts in your gut – that is having a healthy tummy and if you don’t have a healthy tummy, your immunity is compromised,” she said.

Fermented foods, she said are getting a lot of attention these days.

“Things that are pickled, things that are in a brine. Sauerkraut, although it has been around forever, I am finding more people are adding that to their diet, taking a few tablespoons of sauerkraut in the morning to get some good probiotics in their tummies to boost their gut health and immunity health.”

Kombucha, a fermented beverage as well as yogurt and kefir – a drinkable yogurt product are other options to help get some probiotics.

“Or just eating olives or pickles. They are not as strong as Kombucha or yogurt, but still have some of those fermented probiotics in them as well,” she said.

Building a better breakfast

This past year, Cundiff said people have noticed they have had the chance to make breakfast.

“We are seeing a lot of different types of whole grain tortillas – pairing that with eggs and trying to get that protein and those whole grains in,” she said. “Starting the day off with a good breakfast.”

Healthy convenience foods

Cundiff said there is a variety of foods that are quick and easy but still incorporate protein.

“Plant based protein is big and how you can incorporate those is go to the frozen aisle and you will see bags of cauliflower rice, cauliflower bowls, beans. Those are pretty much trending right now and I am very pro of those,” she said. “We are really encouraging people to jump on the convenience way of eating – microwave a frozen vegetable with protein in it. That is a great way to get some good vitamins, fiber and nutrients.”

Hy-Vee dietary services

Cundiff said currently, dietary services are being done virtually or by phone for any customers that may have questions or concerns.

“We have lots of great options. Right now we have a telehealth platform called Healthie, we have free virtual nutrition store tours, cooking classes, free dietician discovery session where customers can chat with us,” she said. “We can talk about their health concerns. We have a menu planning program that we offer to our clients that basically lays out breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks throughout the week with a grocery list and an education program that helps people to plan their own meals and eat healthy.”

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