A New Look at Labels

Have you noticed any food label changes yet? January 1, 2020 is when manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales need to have their labels updated with the new requirements. Smaller manufacturers have an extra year. Some labels have changed already!

Added Sugar

Good news is that one of these new label alterations can help us all cut back on added processed sugar. The new changes include having manufacturers specify the amount of added sugar in the product. This information helps us know how much of the total sugars listed on the label are from added sugars verses how much is naturally occurring in the ingredents.

Yogurt is a great example of this. There is natural sugar in yogurt, but without this new feature we wouldn’t be able to tell how much sugar has been added. We want to have as little added sugar as possible to help keep our body out of fat-making mode.

Sugar By Any Other Name

If there is added sugar, look at the ingredient list to check out the type of sugar. Here are the kinds of sugar to avoid:

  • any ingredient with the word “sugar,” such as white granulated sugar, brown sugar, beet sugar, raw sugar, or sugar cane juice
  • any ingredient with the word “nectar”
  • any ingredient with the word “syrup”
  • any ingredient containing a word ending in “-ose,” including sucrose
  • cane juice
  • caramel or honey
  • corn sweetener
  • fruit juice/fruit juice concentrate

New Label Changes in a Nutshell

  • Will include “added sugars” and the recommended percentage of daily sugar.
  • Will make serving sizes more closely reflect the actual amount that people normally eat. For example, something labeled with a serving size of 1-2, like a soda can, will be labeled as 1 serving since most people consume the entire can in one sitting. For something like a pint of ice cream, calorie and nutrition information will include “per serving” and “per package.”
  • Will update recommended daily limits and values for sodium, dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin D, so they match the recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • “Serving size” and “calories” will be in a bigger font that is easer to read.

Label Confusion

Often companies will use words on their label that attract people with certain food preferences. These words can be misleading if the buyer doesn’t know what it legally means. Some words, like the word “natural,” don’t have any legal significance. For instance, a person might assume a product is organic because its label says “natural,” when in fact it could be very far from natural.


Even if a product or its ingredients are organic, they could still be unhealthy. Organic means the food is grown without pesticides and other chemicals or GMO ingredients. This doesn’t mean it isn’t heavily processed. Organic sugar is free of pesticides but still negatively affects our bodies if we eat too much.


Gluten-free products are made without wheat, rye, barley, or oatmeal with gluten, but that doesn’t mean other ingredients used in gluten-free products are healthy. In fact, many are highly-processed. Corn starch, potato starch, and refined white rice flour are frequently used in gluten-free products. Look for gluten-free products using almonds and bean flours rather than white rice flour. Gluten-free grains like sorghum and quinoa are healthy whole grains (unless they have been refined). Try choosing gluten-free products using whole grains rather than refined ones.

If you are looking for more help in label-reading, check out 12 Fixes to Healthy. It has an entire chapter on buying food with invaluable information on what to look for on labels and what to avoid.

Use this book as a manual too and join us each month with a new Fix from my 12-Fix Wellness Plan! What products are you questioning? Go to Foods With Judes on either Facebook or Instagram and ask about a particular product, and follow us for more awesome tips to benefit your health, life, and happiness.

Judith (aka Judes) Scharman Draughon, MS, RDN, LD is a registered, licensed dietitian nutritionist, author of 12 Fixes to Health: A Wellness Plan for Lifeas well as a corporate wellness speaker. Judes inspires many with her high-energy nutrition presentations, workshops, and seminars throughout the county. She is known as “Foods With Judes.”

Judes is passionate about her quest to empower people to make small changes that make a big difference. She can’t wait to empower you!

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Contributor: Ray Norton