Kids, Nutrition, Toddlers

What Parents Need to Know About the New Nutrition Label

For the first time in over 20 years, the FDA has released a major update to the standard nutrition label. With this change, you’ll get clearer, more scannable and more precise information about what you’re feeding your family—giving you (and your kids!) the power to make healthier choices.

Nurture Life’s healthy kids meals already comply with the latest guidelines, so if you have one of our meals in your fridge, grab it and follow along as we dive into what’s new on the new nutrition label.

nutrition facts panel changes

3 Key Nutrition Label Changes and How to Make the Most of Them

The nutrition label has changed in three major ways.

1. New and Improved Design for Clarity

The new nutrition label looks very similar to the old one, with a few subtle yet meaningful changes. Instead of listing all text in the same way, the new label has enlarged and bolded three key pieces of information: 

  1. Calories
  2. Serving size
  3. Servings per container

Additionally, Daily Value (DV) is now defined as a footnote, and several key nutrients—including vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium—must be listed as their actual amounts (in addition to the percent DV).

Why These Changes Matter to Your Family

These design changes do an excellent job of visually highlighting the most important information, making the nutrition label much easier to scan and comprehend at a glance. 

How to Use These Changes to Make Healthy Choices 

Calories Aren’t the Whole Story

While it’s fantastic that the new food label makes it easier to see calorie information , it’s also important to remember that calories aren’t the only indicator of balanced nutrition for kids or adults. Depending on the ingredients, the same quantity of calories can contain beneficial nutrients or be completely empty. 

For a concrete example (or three, actually!), take a look at our Nurture Life vs. Lunchables showdown. You’ll see that the same 300-ish calories can mean a sizable quantity of food that’s high in fiber, high in protein and low in sugar…or exactly the opposite. Calories do matter some, but they’re only one piece of the puzzle.

Focus on High-Nutrient Foods

Use the nutrition label to identify foods that are high in vitamin D, calcium, iron, potassium and dietary fiber. According to the FDA, a food must have more than 20% DV to be considered high in that nutrient.

Nurture Life’s meals are designed to provide these essential nutrients, which kids need for healthy growth and development at every age. Browse our Kid Meal menu and view the nutrition label on every meal for yourself! You’ll find nutrient-rich options like Chicken & Vegetable Dumplings, high in iron (20% DV), or Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower, high in calcium (30% DV).

healthy kids meals

2. Better Reflection of Current Nutrition Science

Nutrition science has come a long way since the last nutrition label update decades ago, and the new design better incorporates the latest evidence—especially in regards to sugar, salt and fat. Key changes include the following:

  • Added sugar must be listed as a subsection of total sugar. 
  • The “calories from fat” line has been removed.
  • Daily Values for sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D have been updated based on new studies. (The new DV for sodium, for example, has been lowered from 2,400 to 2,300 mg.)
  • Required vitamins and minerals now include vitamin D, potassium, calcium and iron; vitamins A and C are voluntary.

Why These Changes Matter to Your Family

These nutrition label changes are important as they ensure that your family’s diet is based on the most up-to-date scientific research. At Nurture Life, we applaud the changes to sugar labeling in particular. As more evidence points to the dangers of excess sugar in our kids’ diets, we believe that calling out added sugar is a critical step toward keeping the food industry accountable for what they’re putting in our pantries.

At Nurture Life, we’ve already taken our own stand against sugar. Most of our healthy kids meals have no added sugar at all (no sugar substitutes, either!), and if they do, it’s a minimal amount from natural ingredients like fruit purees, agave, honey and maple syrup.

How to Use These Changes to Make Healthy Choices 

Focus on Added Sugar 

Instead of focusing on total sugar, pay attention to added sugar, which signifies if any sugar was added during food processing. Added sugar can come from a manufactured source, like cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, or it can be from a natural source, such as concentrated fruit juice. Foods that advertise “natural” can still be very high in added sugar—so it’s worth double checking the label and also checking the ingredients to determine the sugar source.

Sugar Doesn’t Have to Mean “Sweet”
We all know that added sugar can be found in sweet foods like cookies, cakes or ice cream—but it’s a lot more common than that! Many processed foods contain added sugar, including savory foods like spaghetti sauces, breads, spice mixes, snacks and dips. It’s a good habit to always look for added sugar on the new nutrition label, whether the food seems sweet or not. 

Keep an Eye on Saturated and Trans Fats
The reason that the “calories from fat” line has been removed is because the latest research shows that the type of fat matters more than the amount. A good rule of thumb is to look for foods that are higher in unsaturated fats (e.g., plant oils or omega-3 fatty acids) and lower in saturated fats (e.g., dairy or other animal fats). Avoid trans fats completely, as these fats are linked to cardiovascular disease.

If you order Nurture Life meals for kids or adults, you won’t have to worry about trans fats because we never, ever have trans fats in our food! Read more about the role of fats in our healthy kids meals here.

Check the DV Sodium

Similar to high-sugar foods not always being sweet, high-sodium foods won’t necessarily be extremely salty. Checking the food label for the percent DV can help you stay mindful of how much sodium your family is consuming—which, for many of us, is probably more than we’d think! Limiting sodium in our kids’ diet is a great way to shape their palates to accept (and eventually appreciate) how real food actually tastes.

3. Updated Serving Sizes

Last but not least, the new nutrition label features several important changes to serving sizes:

  • Serving sizes are larger to better reflect how much people actually eat in a single serving.
  • If a food package contains between one and two servings, it must now be listed as just one. 
  • If a food package is small enough that it could be eaten in a sitting or two, then the nutrition label must contain two columns: one for a single serving and one for the entire package.

Why These Changes Matter to Your Family

Serving size is one of the most important features of the nutrition facts label because all the nutrient amounts, including the calories, are based on one recommended serving. By clarifying the serving size and servings per container, these changes make it easier for you to know exactly what you’re eating. (We’ll no longer be “tricked” into eating a snack pack that actually has two or three servings instead of the assumed one.)

How to Use These Changes to Make Healthy Choices

Pay Attention to Dual Columns
When you see a dual-column food label, pay extra attention so that you know how many calories and nutrients you’re consuming in the entire package. Since the dual-column design is brand new, it might take a few times to get the hang of.

Serving Sizes Don’t Have to Be the Rule
Keep in mind that the recommended serving size is just that—a recommendation. There’s no reason to eat an entire serving just because it’s listed that way on the package. Instead, we recommend using serving size as a general gauge and then adapting based on your own hunger and fullness cues. This is a great way to teach your kids the importance of listening to their bodies rather than adhering to an arbitrary portion size or feeling pressured to clean their plate.

What Do The Nutrition Label Changes Mean for Nurture Life?

As we mentioned before, Nurture Life’s meal packaging already complies with the new food label guidelines, so practically speaking, these changes won’t affect our meals. We’ve always stood for transparency and evidence-based nutrition in meals for kids—so we’re happy that with these new nutrition label guidelines, the rest of the food industry will be coming a little closer to the high standards we’ve held since day one.

Read more about our rigorous nutrition standards here, and please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions! Send our nutrition experts a message at support@nurturelife.com.

healthy kids meals

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Lara Field

Lara has been working with Nurture Life since its inception, collaborating with the culinary team on the creation of all menus and recipes to ensure they are nutritionally appropriate and correctly proportioned for every age and stage of a child’s development and providing pediatric nutrition expertise to Nurture Life customers. Lara is the owner/founder of FEED—Forming Early Eating Decisions, a nutrition consulting practice specializing in pediatric nutrition and digestive diseases. Lara has over a decade of experience in clinical practice at two of the top ranked pediatric hospitals in the country, Lurie Children’s Hospital and University of Chicago Medical Center. Lara received her B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and M.S. and dietetic internship from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. Lara truly enjoys the process of eating (and feeding!), from procuring the ingredients at various grocery stores and farmers markets, to organizing her pantry/refrigerator at home to make it easy to select healthy options, to preparing balanced meals with her children. Whether it be a decadent treat to a hearty, home-cooked meal, there is no greater satisfaction for Lara than enjoying food with her family.

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