NASM CNC Chapter 19: Food and Supplement Labels and Portion Size

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Chapter Goals:

  • Know the information on our food and supplement labels.
  • Find the food label components.
  • Be able to explain the impact that the labels have on nutrition goals.
  • Discuss portion sizes and their use with clients.

Food Labels

Many packaged food items must have a label displayed that shows the product’s name. This is done by the FDA. The label is required to show a name, the amount of the product held in the container, the name of the company that made it, the address of where it is made, the list of ingredients, the actual nutrition facts label, and a statement of allergen that are had in the food item. 

Both the nutrition facts label and the list of ingredients are looked over most of the time by people, but they can help quite a bit with your diet.

The nutrition facts label: a brief history

The nutrition facts label as it is now has appeared since 1993.

A new version of the label has been changed as of May 20, 2016. 

Actual information on food products did not start until around the year 1960. 

The new label will commence in the year 2020.

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The new label and the old label have some differences. The revision has the caloric information in a larger and bolder font. The calories that come from fats are not required to be on there anymore. The revision has the total sugars along with the added sugars. Both vitamin A and vitamin C are not needed on the new label. Potassium and vitamin D are now added to this new label. 

So, everything that is now required for the nutrition labels is now:

  • Serving in the container.
  • Size for the serving.
  • The total amount of calories in every serving.
  • The total fat, the saturated fat, and the trans-fat.
  • The cholesterol within.
  • The sodium
  • Total carbs.
  • Dietary fibers.
  • Total and added sugars.
  • The protein amount. 

Reading the Nutrition Facts Label

Two main things are seen first on the label. The first is the servings per container, and then the second is the serving size. Servings per container refer to the number of servings found within the package based on the serving size. This is the amount of food that someone eats on average in one sitting for the food. 

Even though the serving size is average, this does not mean it is odd to eat more. A person’s amount in one sitting will be known as portion size. This depends on that person’s calorie needs, activity level, and meal type.

Percent Daily Value

This is the amount of something in the food that contributes to the recommendations for the daily amount based upon a 2,000 calorie diet. This is present for everything on the nutrition label besides the total sugars and the protein now. 

Using percent daily value

These are used as a tool to show if the product is very high or very low in a nutrient you may be looking to avoid or to take in. This allows people to see how valuable a specific product is to them. 

Calories and Macronutrients

After the servings per container and the size of the servings, the next thing to look for on the label is the calories are given and the macronutrient ratios accompanying that value. So, we are looking at the total calories and then how many are provided by the fats, carbs, and proteins in one serving. The new larger font of the revised nutrition label makes it easier for the eyes to go to the larger font of the total calories. 

Dietary Fiber

This is listed on a per serving basis also. It doesn’t count as a macronutrient technically since we do not digest the fiber. But still, some people may be looking for this for the fibers’ many health benefits. 

Total sugars and added sugars

Both of these are listed on the new labels. This allows people to find products with many added sugars, which are meant to be avoided and restricted when possible. 

Protein

Protein is vital since it is the most important macronutrient for our bodies, so it is included in the labels. 

Micronutrients

The main micronutrients that are needed now on the labels will be sodium, potassium, calcium, iron, and vitamin D. Some products are allowed to have others listed, but the previous ones are required to be there. Another requirement is if the food is fortified with nutrients, they must have them listed there also. 

Sodium

Many packaged and processed foods will have large amounts of sodium packed within, and because of this, it needs to be displayed as to how much this will affect someone’s diet. The sodium is used for flavor and as a preservative.

Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium

Vitamin A and C used to be needed on the labels, but now it is just these vital micronutrients. These nutrients are here because it is commonly seen that most adults in the US have failed to take them in under the right amounts. 

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Cholesterol

This is put in due to the correlation and the prevalence of heart disease and cholesterol. 

Food Labels Outside of the United States

Food labels in other places in the world will differ somewhat, but they still provide valuable nutrient information regarding nutrient density and micro/macronutrient content. Some places like the UK like to base things off of 100 grams instead of the average serving size used in the US labels.

Reference Intakes vs. Daily Values

European labels give the percent reference intake values, serving the same meaning as the daily values used in the united states. This is the recommended amount of a certain nutrient for healthy individuals to take in. 

Color Coding on UK and EU Food Labels

One feature present in European labels is the use of color coding to give a sense of what is good and bad or somewhat worrisome. It follows the same coding as a stop light. This system makes it to where it shows the main things in the food and the colors for them if people should go or stop. This is useful for quickly looking at the basic information of the item. 

The Ingredient List

This is one of the most vital components of the label. But we also use it less than anything else. It is required in the US and in the EU. The list of ingredients is done in descending order of prevalence, meaning that the first ingredient listed will be present in the greatest amount, and so on. We also require manufacturers to list any of the common allergies that may be present within the ingredients for quick finding of that information. When we look at the ingredient list, we should ask three things:

  • What is the main ingredient?
  • Which item is first on the list?
  • Does this match with what the product is claiming to be about?

Additives in the ingredient list

The US FDA requires food additives to be listed by their common name for easy recognition by consumers. This is not the same in all places in the world. They may use less recognizable names.

Nutrient Claims

We have many claims for the nutrients for signifying If the product is a good source of something or if it is low in something. Consumers can see this on the front and then know more about the product immediately without looking at the label. There are many terms for us to know, and this is where the confusion comes in. some terms are things like low fat, reduced fat, fat free, % fat free, No trans-fat, and Saturated fat free. From those right there, we see that they all discuss fats, but to know what they mean, the consumers need to have a little bit more information. This is why it is important to learn all these grocery shopping terms.

Health Claims on Nutrition Labels

Some labels may make health claims stating the consumption of this item would help with reducing certain diseases or health issues. The approved claims are:

  • Calcium and vitamin D may reduce osteoporosis.
  • Dietary fats and cancer risk.
  • Fruits and veggies and cancer risk.
  • Folic acid reduces birth problems.
  • Sodium relating to hypertension claims.
  • And soluble fiber reduces heart disease.

Additional Nutrition Terms Seen on Food Labels

Many popular terms may be included in the food items package in some form. These will be n the form of things like Non-GMO, organic, certified organic, and others. 

Supplement Facts Label

Supplements include anything taken by mouth for supplementation of the diet. So vitamins, minerals, amino acids, protein powders, botanical products, enzymes, and herbs. These are all included here. 

Supplement Label Requirements

The labels for these supplements must have the supplement’s name, the net quantity, the nutrition labeling, the list of ingredients, and the name of the business with the address. 

A serving size is included, and the servings are within each container. We also see the other basic nutrition facts label requirements on here for the macro and micronutrients. They may be omitted from the label if they are not present in the supplement. 

Percent Daily Value

This is the same for all ingredients the FDA defines with a daily value. They must state that if it has not been established for the supplement. 

Supplement Labels Outside of the US

Supplement labels are very similar throughout Europe but list the nutrient reference value instead of the percent daily value we just discussed.

Ingredient Lists for Dietary Supplements

This must be provided for supplements, which are in decreasing order of prevalence, but the difference here is that the vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes are grouped together. 

Portion Sizes

Portion sizes have been increasing over the years, which is most easily seen with the size of the drinks changing so much. 

Serving size vs. Portion size

The terms serving size and portion size may be synonyms for many consumers, but they are different. The serving size is the typical amount that is taken in within one sitting and is simply a reference point for the consumer and the data on the rest of the label. The portion size is the amount you take in within one sitting. This may be more, or it may be less than the serving size. That is the point of the serving size being average. 

Portion Distribution

The portion sizes of common foods have gone up drastically throughout the years and have led to increases in rates of obesity throughout the united states. 

These larger sizes of portions have distorted the normal portion of food for consumers. The restaurant portions have also significantly increased. Providing this information may help people with the management of their consumption of food. 

Portion distortion in social media

The social media used today is known for exaggerating everything, and this is especially true for the images of food. So, it is important to look into and consider what we see online every day.

Weight Management and Portion Control

Controlling your portion is one of the most important things we can do in weight management. The size of our portions, the quality of our diet, and energy density play important roles. This portion control is more important when we are eating these energy dense foods. We should go by the guidelines of the USDA MyPlate website and app. This shows the appropriate portions of the different food groups and what we should strive to fill our plates with. 

Plate Size

One thing to consider is the size of the plate you use. The MyPlate app is less useful and true if you use an oversized large plate for your meals. 

Portion Control Guide

The actual size of your portions that are best for you will depend on factors like your size, your gender, and the level of activity that you partake in. These are all major considerations, but the MyPlate system is still a solid tool for the general population to base their meals. 

Measuring Servings and Portions

Some people choose to use specific utensils for their estimation, which is good, but you should pay close attention to how the utensil is filled. This is where we look at if the scoop is heaping or not. A heaping cup could have double the amount of an actual cup.

Portion Sizing in the UK and EU

Portions sizing here will be done in grams, milligrams, and common food serving sizes. It may differ from the results in the US somewhat. 

NASM CNC Chapter 19: Food and Supplement Labels and Portion Size 4
NASM CNC Chapter 19: Food and Supplement Labels and Portion Size 5
NASM CNC Chapter 19: Food and Supplement Labels and Portion Size 6
Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


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