New nutrition facts label

For three decades, the Nutrition Fact Panel on the food label has provided a nutritional snapshot of the food inside a package. By law, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration dictates that the label must list not only the calories, but also other important nutrient information, such as the amount of heart-unhealthy saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium per serving.

With more than half of all adults currently having one or more preventable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity — all related to unhealthy diets and physical inactivity — the FDA decided that the label needed a makeover. The agency correctly realized that consumers could use some additional information to help them make better food decisions to improve their health and better manage their waistline.

Here are some of the important changes you’re now going to see on the label:

[SEE: 5 European Eating Habits Americans Should Adopt.]

Realistic Serving Sizes

The serving sizes on many foods and beverages will now reflect what folks are actually consuming, not the portion size they should be eating. Gone are the days when a pint of ice cream was listed as containing four one-half-cup servings. (Seriously, have you ever doled out four servings from a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia?)

The new serving size for ice cream is now two-thirds of a cup, which more accurately represents the three servings Americans, on average, are really scooping from that pint. Of course, with this increase in portion size, the calories per serving are also going to increase.

The serving size of soda is changing from 8 ounces to 12 ounces, and if you buy a 20-ounce bottle, the label will now provide the nutrition information for guzzling the entire bottle.

Calories Are a Stand Out

The calories per serving on the label is in a font size so large that I will no longer have to put on my reading glasses when shopping. With more than 70% of Americans overweight, this change screams out that calories count when it comes to better managing our waistlines.

[SEE Top Nutrition Fallacies on Social Media.]

Added Sugars Shout Out

Americans have a sweet tooth. We consume, on average, about 16 teaspoons of added sugars daily. Because research supports that an excessive amount of added sugars in the diet increases the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity, the amount of added sugars will be disclosed to help rein in your intake.

You may shocked to learn that a 20-ounce bottle of a sugar-sweetened soda has more than 60 grams of added sugars — the equivalent of 15 teaspoons of sugar. This label change will help consumers decide to either downsize their portions or switch to another beverage and/or food to decrease the added sugars in their diet.

Daily Values Update

The recommended daily values for nutrients such as sodium, fiber and vitamins have been updated based on the latest research, and vitamin D, potassium, calcium and iron will be listed to reflect the nutrients that many Americans are falling short of in their diet.

[See: The 9 Best Diets for Fast Weight Loss]

Two for the Price of One

Some products, such as beverages and ice cream that come in a container that is larger than one serving but could potentially be consumed all in one sitting, will now provide a dual panel.This panel will provide you with the calories and nutrients per serving, as well as the amount you would be consuming should you finish the entire container in one sitting. So for example, while a serving of ice cream may be 270 calories, the label will also visually inform you that you’ll be inhaling 810 calories if you’re enjoying the entire pint container alone.

With this new label, you may be hearing loud gasps of shock from label-reading shoppers in the aisles of the supermarket. But it’s just one more way of shopping smarter and healthier.

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