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October 5, 2017 | 3 minute read

How the new nutrition facts label can help you lower cancer risk.

Are you an avid food label reader? If so, you may be seeing changes to your favorite packaged foods. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration developed – and set a timeline for – sweeping new changes for nutrition labels. This is good news for cancer prevention because at least three of those changes will help you make choices that have a big impact on getting to and staying a healthy weight, an important goal for lower cancer risk.

These changes include using more realistic serving sizes (what people actually eat), showing calories per serving more clearly, and a specific listing for how much sugar is added to the food.

But you may also be seeing headlines that the rules are being delayed and changes may not show up until 2019 or even early 2020. The good news is that many manufacturers have already been working on their new labels. Here’s how you can use this new information for healthier choices.


Cancer Prevention by the (Label) Numbers

  1. Servings – all nutrition numbers are based on one serving. Here’s what to know:
    • Look for the number of servings in each package. This is especially helpful for beverages where one container may have multiple servings, even if it looks like a single serving bottle.
    • Note what the serving size is. The serving size can guide how much you decide to put onto your plate or bowl. If you serve yourself 1 cup of the produce above rather than the 2/3 cup serving size, you’ll get 345 calories instead of 230. If you’re tracking calories, that’s important!
  2. Calories – big and bold
    • Compare with other similar foods. Here you can choose the brand or variety that most closely match your calorie intake and weight goals.
    • You can track calories more easily. Seeing calories quickly is just more convenient.
  3. Added Sugars – what’s natural and what’s added
    • Helps you stay within the recommended limit for added sugar consumption. Some foods, like dairy, fruit and vegetables and their products have naturally occurring sugars, so now you can see exactly how much is natural and how much is added to those products.
    • Know how to put added sugar amounts into perspective. Pay attention to the % Daily Value column on the right – that’s key. For example, on the above label you see that one serving have 10 grams of added sugar which is 20 percent – one-fifth – of the daily upper limit for sugar as set by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Aim to choose mostly whole and lightly processed plant foods, but there’s room for frozen, canned and boxed foods in your diet. Reading the nutrition facts label is one good habit to follow when choosing processed foods. It’s a habit that helps you minimize added sugars, compare and contrast nutritional value, and be knowledgeable about the foods you are eating and serving to your family.

Read more about how much processed food we eat here.

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