Why I love the new food label

Food labels have been long overdue for a make-over. After years of pressure from consumer advocacy groups and health experts, the FDA finally released a proposed new food label. *slow clap*

New Food Label

Why do I love it?

  • Added sugars! While the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 6 tsp/day for women and 9 tsp/day for men, there was no way to know how much you were getting because added sugars weren’t required to be on labels.
  • Fiber gets redefined: If approved, the “fiber” on a label will reflect only the the intact, unprocessed fiber in whole foods, and exclude purified fibers such as maltodextrin and inulin (which are added to processed foods).
  • Vitamin D and potassium: Requiring these two nutrients (in place of Vitamins A & C) is much more relevant to the health needs of today’s population.
  • No more serving size trickery. Have you ever been able to get 4 servings out of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s? I didn’t think so. On the new label, serving sizes for many foods have been updated to reflect more realistic (in other words, larger) portion sizes.
  • And most importantly, it’s easier to read! With this new design, your eyes are drawn towards the important information. The calorie count jumps out at you and the % Daily Value of Nutrients is much easier to trace.

There is also an alternate proposal, which I like very much. It is even clearer about which nutrients are beneficial (“get enough”) and which ones we need to limit (“avoid too much”). See below:

Alternate Proposed Food Label

These proposals are scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on March 3.  After that, the FDA will collect comments for 90 days. To read the reports detailing the proposed rules and changes, see this FDA webpage. First Lady Michelle Obama has been instrumental in getting this legislation approved, and in record time! This is basically the food industry’s worst nightmare, so expect a carefully strategized counterattack during the comment period.

Score one for public health and food policy!

– Kelly

Smoothies vs Juice

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‘Tis the season for new years resolutions! For many, that means detoxing from a season of indulgence with a juice fast. But is juicing the healthiest way to load up on antioxidants?

When cutting back on soda, some people use juice as a “healthier” way to satisfy their cravings for sweet beverages, as well as a tasty way to sneak in some extra vegetables. While juice is a natural source of many vitamins and minerals, and definitely a step up from soda, it is not a necessary part of a healthy diet, and in fact, is less healthy than eating the fruits and vegetables themselves.

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By discarding the pulp and solids (the difference between juicing and making a smoothie), you are missing out on the fiber and some of the micronutrients. This is one reason that I am not a huge proponent of “juice fasts”. If you are looking to consume a diet high in fiber and antioxidants, don’t just sip nature’s sugar water; eat the whole fruit! Additionally, do not be fooled into thinking that juice is a low calorie or no calorie beverage. Many juices pack just as much sugar and calories per cup as soda.

Smoothies, on the other hand, contain the whole fruit, rather than just the sugary juice. And contrary to popular opinion, blending fruits and greens up in a blender does not make the fiber disappear. The tip to keeping a smoothie healthy is to keep the ingredients healthy: whole fruits (berries, bananas, mango, etc), greens (kale, spinach), and optional healthy extras (organic, plain yogurt, unsweetened almond milk, organic cottage cheese, chia seeds, ground flaxseed). Don’t add juice or sweetened yogurt to your smoothie, as that defeats the purpose. With all of these solid ingredients, a heavy duty blender (such as a Vitamix) works best. However, I make smoothies in my knock-off magic bullet, and it works just fine.

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Looking for healthy smoothie recipes to get you started?

And for those of you that would still like to give juicing a try, these six fruit and veggie combos look delicious!

– Kelly