Labels can be helpful if you know what you’re looking for. And they can be enlightening when you compare one label to another. For example, did you know that Trix cereal has less sugar than Vanilla Almond Special K? Who would have guessed that? There are 10 grams of sugar in Trix and 12 in the Vanilla Almond Special K. Got to have your Trix? No problem, try combining Trix and Cheerios which only has 1 gram of sugar.
The new label (see label on right) has a few new features. The serving size is in bold so we’re well aware the serving may be seemingly small. The calorie count is also larger and bolder. Remember that calorie amount is for one serving, not one container! You’ll also find vitamin D and potassium listed because many Americans don’t get the recommended amount of either of those. What may have the most impact, though, is the new inclusion of “added sugars.”
Many sugars occur naturally. Take yogurt, for example. Lactose is the natural sugar that occurs in milk. Along with the lactose comes protein, vitamin D, potassium and calcium–a fair exchange for a little lactose. Fructose is the natural sugar in fruit. According to many dietitians, we don’t need to be particularly concerned about the fructose in fresh fruit, either. You may get too much fructose with fruit juices and dried fruit, but most people don’t overeat fresh fruit. Fruit is also packed with fiber and nutritious vitamins we need.
“Added sugars” are something to watch for though. Yogurt is a great example of the range of added sugars that can occur in many packaged foods. An 5.3 ounce serving of plain yogurt has 10 grams of sugar which is naturally occurring. The same size serving of strawberry yogurt has 22 grams of sugar. But how much of that sugar is naturally occurring fructose from the strawberries? With the current labeling, we can’t know for sure. The new label will tell us exactly how much sugar is added.
If you are aiming for a 2,000 calorie budget for your food intake, it’s recommended you have less than 10% of your total daily calories from added sugars. That means no more than 200 calories or 50 grams of added sugar. Every one is different, of course, and has different dietary needs, but at least there is finally an added sugar guideline for Americans to follow.
Some companies are using the new label now. By January 2021 all food manufacturers will be required to follow the new guidelines.
You can find more information about new guidelines at this Food and Drug Administration website.