Everything you need to know about new FDA nutrition label guidelines

In case you haven’t heard, the FDA has required that all nutrition labels get a makeover by 2020 (which will have been 30 years since the last time the labels were changed!). We wanted to get more info about what that means for the average food-eater from our Head Nutritionist, Brooke Scheller. She helped us break it down for you here. 

First things first: we’re pretty excited about this change. So excited we’re completing our transition to the new label 2 years ahead of the deadline like the nutrition nerds we are. All of the changes reflect a more accurate representation of how people actually eat and take into account advances in nutrition.

SO WHAT’S CHANGING? WE’VE BUCKETED THE THINGS TO LOOK FOR: 

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This is probably the most noticeable visual change. Bigger font and a new layout put a greater focus on serving size, including a different layout for packages with multiple servings. “Right now, companies are able to make products look better nutritionally by cutting a portion you’re probably actually eating into multiple servings that are unrealistically small,” Brooke told us. This doesn’t affect your Freshly meals—they’ve always been listed as one portion and one serving—but it will probably shed light on some other products you’ve been eating (and help you compare them to us).

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The new label swaps out nutrients Americans already get enough of (vitamins A and C) for ones that many of us are deficient in (vitamin D and potassium). “Vitamin D is important for our overall health so shifting focus makes it easier for you to seek it out. You can find vitamin D in foods like fish, mushrooms, egg yolks, among other things,” Brooke advised. Potassium is another new kid on the label. It helps support healthy blood pressure and sodium balance (which is why we use potassium-rich foods in many of our meals!). Potassium-rich foods include many fruits and veggies, like tomatoes, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, avocados, bananas, and more. Calcium and iron are still on the new label so that you can make sure you’re getting enough of those, too.

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These changes are less obvious if you don’t know to look for them. Based on recent nutrition and health research, the FDA has tweaked their macronutrient recommendations—fats increase from 65 to 78 grams per day, fiber is upped slightly from 25 to 28 grams, and the recommendation for carbs drops from 300 to 275 grams. “As big proponents of healthy fats, we’re excited that this change emphasizes their importance in our diets,” Brooke said. Long story short: you might notice daily value percentages change on the labels of foods you regularly eat, but that doesn’t mean anything has changed nutritionally.

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The new label shows total sugars (the combination of naturally-occurring sugars, like those in fruits and veggies, plus added sugars), and breaks out the amount of added sugar on a separate line. “At Freshly, we don’t use refined sugars like white cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. When a dish calls for a touch of sweetness, we go for natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and coconut sap,” Brooke explained. “Even though they’re from naturally occurring sources, they still show as ‘added’ sugar on the new nutrition label.”

WHY DOES FRESHLY USE NATURAL SWEETENERS?

One thing all experts can agree on is that we should cut sugar wherever possible. Added sugars are all over the place in processed foods, and linked with many health problems, like diabetes, increased levels of inflammation, and even cancer. If you’ve ever done Whole30, you know these hidden sugars can even be found in savory foods, dressings, and sauces.

Besides its most obvious uses, sugar is also added to food for functional reasons, like helping enhance the structure of bread or baked goods, or to reduce the acidity of savory foods like marinara sauce.

Since taste is an important part of enjoying the healthy food you eat, we look to provide better-for-you options that we feel good about. (Like maple syrup, found in nature from “tapping” a maple tree.) These natural sweeteners often have a lower glycemic index, meaning they don’t spike your blood sugar as much as other types of sweeteners (spikes in blood sugar mean blood sugar crashes, resulting in that afternoon crash and more cravings for sugar). We also like sweeteners that skip the refining process, which often results in a product that doesn’t contain much nutritional value (just, ya know, sugar). The moral of the story from Brooke: “Cut sugar where you can, opt for natural sweeteners over processed ones, and trust that we’ll be doing our part to do the same on our side!”

Reminder: every Freshly meal on our website shows full nutrition facts. You can find the label on every meal here