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Building a better Nutrition Facts label

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 3, 2014 at 11:31 am •  Published: March 3, 2014
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c.2014 San Antonio Express-News

Building a better Nutrition Facts label

By Richard A. Marini

San Antonio Express-News

The Nutrition Facts label is about to get a makeover. The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed updates to the label that has been on most food packages, and confused consumers, for almost 20 years.

The proposed changes reflect the latest in nutrition science and will be up for public comment for 90 days. I contacted several registered dietitians and nutritionists to get their thoughts on these proposed changes -- and others they'd like to see:

>>Identify added sugar. There's a difference between sugar that occurs naturally, such as in fruits, and added sugar, which contributes nothing but calories and is linked to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses. Claudia Zapata, a registered dietitian nutritionist, blogger (www.claudiazapata.com) and former Express-News columnist, wants the new label to distinguish between the two. For example, an organic Greek yogurt with blueberries lists 20 grams of total sugar. "With the current Nutrition Facts label, it's impossible to tell how much comes from the blueberries and how much is added," she said.

>>Re-think serving size. They're a mess. Who thinks about eating 28 grams of potato chips? Or 1 ounce? Or even just 12 chips? Not me. You? Yet these are some of the ways potato chip serving sizes are listed on the current label. Julie Jarzombek, a nutritionist with South Texas Surgeons in San Antonio, instead wants serving sizes listed by quarters of a package: one-quarter of the bag, one-half, three-quarters and one full bag. It'd be more understandable because you could more easily see how much you're eating.

>>Can "Calories from Fat." Its location near the top of the Nutrition Facts label suggests this is an important piece of information. And it was -- back in the early '90s when we were all obsessing about cutting fat. Consider the gummy bear, which gets zero calories from fat and the almond, which gets about two-thirds of its calories from fat. Today, no one would argue that gummy bears are more healthful than almonds, according to Samantha Lopez, a registered dietitian nutritionist with JTA Wellness in San Antonio.

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