6 Ways the Nutrition Facts Label May Change

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FDA

It’s probably rare for any of us MyFitnessPal folks to go a day without glancing at at least one Nutrition Facts Label. For the past 20 plus years, these labels have given us nutritional insight into the foods we’ve been eating–but aside from the addition of trans fats back in 2006, these nutrition labels have remained essentially unchanged since they were introduced back in 1993.

Not surprisingly, the American diet has changed a lot in those 20 years. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines have been updated not once, not twice, but four times, and there have been some pretty major advances in nutrition research, the food industry and understanding consumer behaviors around food choices. We undoubtedly look at nutrition today much differently than we did 20 years ago which is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed to bring the Nutrition Facts label up-to-date.

Yesterday at the White House, Michelle Obama unveiled the FDA’s proposed changes to the new label which aims to make it easier for us to identify unhealthy packaged foods and better understand how certain foods contribute to our daily nutrition goals.

Highlights include:

1. The addition of “Added Sugars”. We’ve been told for years that we consume too much added sugar but the current nutrition label offers consumers no information about just how much has been added versus how much foods contain naturally. In order to help us track just how much added sugar we’re eating, the FDA has proposed to include “Added Sugars” beneath “Sugar” on the updated nutrition label.

2. More realistic serving sizes. By law, serving sizes are to be based on what people actually eat not how much they should be consuming, but the current nutrition labels still reflect the smaller portion sizes of 20 years ago. Under the proposed update, serving sizes would aim to be more realistic to what you or I would consume in one sitting. For example, a 20-ounce soda would be 1 serving rather than 2 1/2.

3. Addition of a “Per Package” column. The proposed label change would also introduce a “dual column” to the Nutrition Facts label, indicating both “per serving” and “per package” nutrition information–for those larger packages that could be consumed in one, or multiple sittings.

4. The addition of Vitamin D and Potassium. Most Americans don’t get enough of either of these nutrients that play an important roles in bone health, blood pressure and decreasing risk of chronic disease. Vitamin D and Potassium content would join Iron and Calcium on the new label. In turn, listing Vitamin C and Vitamin A content would become voluntary.

5. “Calories from Fat” would be cut. The proposed label would still show “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat,” but “Calories from Fat” would be removed since research has largely shown the types of fat have more of an impact on our health.

6. An easier-to-read label. Calories and serving sizes would be more prominent in larger and bolder type. Additionally, the %DV (percent daily value) column would be moved to the left so those nutrients could more immediately be put into context of how they fit into your nutrition goals.

From a Dietitian’s perspective, these proposed updates have potential to make a big impact and could make the nutrition label on packaged foods easier to navigate. Not surprisingly, this more revealing food label is expected to stir things up, particularly within the food industry.  The proposed changes are subject to a 90-day comment period. Once the final updates have been agreed upon, food manufacturers will have 2 years to switch to the updated label.

For more information, head on over to the FDA’s website. Stay tuned for updates!

Which of the proposed changes are you most in favor of? Any you don’t agree with? Let us know in the comments below or share your opinions on Facebook!

6 Reasons Why Pistachios are the Bomb

Myfitnesspal health benefits pistachios healthy snack

Today in food holidays, February 26th is National Pistachio Day. How about a quick round of pistachio trivia?

True or False: Pistachio nuts can self-ignite. As in, light themselves on fire.

Sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it?

We thought so too but it turns out this fun fact is actually true!

Before you go running to your kitchen cabinet with a fire extinguisher in hand, relax. This is really only a concern when shipping pistachios in large batches—-like in cargo ships and tractor trailers.

Basically, pistachios are the bomb. Not just literally, but nutritionally as well. In honor of National Pistachio Day, here are 5 nutritional benefits these little green nuts have to offer:

1. As far as healthy nuts go, pistachios rank high. They’re among the lowest in fat and calories and tend to be higher in protein and potassium, when compared with other nut varieties. A one-ounce serving (about 49 pistachios) has 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and as much potassium as half of a large banana.

2. Pistachios pack antioxidant power. Per 100 grams, they actually have more antioxidants than blueberries, blackberries, garlic and pomegranate juice.

3. They’re good for your eyes. Pistachios have more lutein than any other nut– a compound that’s a big player in maintaining eye health.

4. Pistachios are a good source of heart healthy fats. Almost 90% of the fat in a serving of of pistachios is unsaturated, 55% coming from monounsaturated fats and 32% from polyunsaturated fats.

5. Their phytosterols can positively impact cholesterol. During digestion, a pistachio’s plant compounds actually compete with dietary cholesterol for absorption, which may benefit our cardiovascular health and lower LDL cholesterol. Some research even suggests that pistachios may even elevate healthy HDL cholesterol levels when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat—something other nuts might not be able to do.

Does this post have you craving a handful of nuts? Great! Here are a few tips for making pistachios a sensible snack:

  • If your doctor has you on a low sodium diet, go for the unsalted variety.
  • One serving is 49 nuts so be sure to count them out. They’re so good it’s easy to get carried away.
  • Sure it might take a bit more work to get to them, but a pile of pistachios still in their shells will last longer.
  • Pistachios are a form of tree nut–just something to keep in mind if you have nut sensitivities or food allergies.

February 2014 Member of the Month Contest

We heart the Olympics. Last month, we asked you about the healthy choices you’ve learned how to make, even though they can sometimes feel like an Olympic feat. Fortunately, all healthy choices don’t have to be difficult. This month we want to hear what your favorite fun workout is and how it keeps you charged up.

MyFitnessPal Member of the Month

To enter, please submit a photo of yourself doing your favorite workout with up to 100 words describing what it is, why it’s fun and how it keeps you motivated to stay in motion.

The winner will receive an iPhone, an AirPlay device that allows you to wirelessly stream content from your Apple devices to your TV, and a free year of the FitStar personal training app – which sync automatically to MyFitnessPal!

Don’t miss out. Submit your entry here. We look forward to reading them!

- The MyFitnessPal Team

MyFitnessPal: A Community Fit for a King

myfitnesspal community fit for a king

Coach-Stevo-Logo.pngIn Act IV of Shakespeare’s Henry V, the new King is about to go into battle ill-equipped, outnumbered, likely to lose and probably die. So he does what any Shakespeare character would do and puts on a disguise to see what his troops are saying about him behind his back. It’s in this disguise that he realizes the pending battle is not all about him and that while King, he is still only a man. A man who needs help from the people around him.

One of the most important and powerful tools that people looking to change their health and fitness lives have is the people around them. “You are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time,” the old adage goes. But as John Romaniello points out, “then you’re also 1/5 of the equation for each of those people, and anyone else in your immediate orbit.”

The person I grew up spending the most time with was my brother Drew. We were 2 years apart in rural Georgia enjoying the same things: movies, TV, and copious amounts of Cheez-Its. Diet and exercise were not a high priority for us and by the time we became adults we both struggled with health and fitness.

Like clockwork, we decided to change our lifestyles about two years apart. By that time for Drew, I was personal trainer and what would seem to be an obvious brother-in-arms. Except unbeknownst to him, I was in no shape to even support myself. The official diagnosis was “achilles tendinosis,” painful microtears that caused the back of my calves to swell and be excruciating to the touch. However it was my doctor’s prescription that was unbearable. “No running. None. Not for at least six months. And when you do start again, nothing faster than 8 minutes a mile.” 8 minute miles? After all I had worked for, that was going back in time. He might as well have said, “move back to rural Georgia and eat Cheez-Its all day.”

The instrumental work of Dr. Martin Seligman (former head of the American Psychological Association) and the Positive Psychological Movement has shown that much of people’s well-being is rooted in something as old as Agincourt: a sense of purpose. Helping other people, contributing to something larger than yourself, and positive relationships with others is a universal human good. For Henry V, the sense of purpose is outlined in his famous St. Crispin’s Day speech, that “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother.” For me, helping my brother get started was exactly what I needed to get started in my recovery. I found weight training as an alternative to running and more importantly a passion for coaching.

Everyone needs help when they need to change. Whether those habits are nutrition, fitness, sleep, or stress, we are most likely to do the hard things in life when we do them for a greater purpose than vanity. And that help goes both ways. Henry V does not convince his troops to risk death for him. He convinces them to risk death with him, their brother. My brother and I found new habits and meaning with a relationship of mutual accountability. Whenever we talk, we talk about the activities we enjoy and the foods we love to eat. As Seligman’s studies found, this very purposefulness is addictive and begets more motivation to endeavor in even more purposeful choices and to “stand a tip-toe when the day is named.”

Help begets help. So if you are struggling to make those healthy choices, reach out. Reach out here on these forums and in these comments to the people who are struggling just like you, and simply say, “Hey. I’m here, too. How can I help?” You might just find a happy few who will reach back.

Coach Stevo is the nutrition and sport psychology consultant at San Francisco CrossFit  He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, has a BA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, and is finishing his MA in Applied Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University. His specialty is habit-based training and he contributed to Intervention by Dan John in 2012. 

5 Ways to Work Your Core (Without Crunches!)

logoSpring is around the corner, and, like it or not, crop tops are still in style! Chances are you’ve been crunching away in hopes of achieving a lean, defined core—but what if I said that was all just a waste of your precious time?

The most effective thing you can do for core training isn’t an exercise at all—it’s nutrition. Eating to support a lean physique includes lots of protein and vegetables, in addition to some fruit and a moderate amount of healthy fats. But there are things you can do to help cultivate a strong, svelte midsection with zero crunches.

Why no crunches? Well, the jury is still mixed on whether or not crunches are safe for your spine; some claim that crunches are the worst thing you can do for your spine, and others dismiss this as alarmist dogma. What we do know is that they aren’t actually the most effective way to engage your entire core.

I’m not just talking about abs here. The term “core” actually relates to more than just your abs, and includes your shoulder girdle, obliques, and glutes—basically everything excepting your limbs. All of the crunches in the world won’t help you zero in on all those areas at once. Doing these 5 total body, core-focused moves instead will save you time and give you real results.

1. The Plank Up Down. 

This exercise challenges stability in the trunk, and requires you to keep a solid plank while moving up and down from forearms to hands. It’s important to maintain a straight line from ear to ankle while in the plank position, keeping your abs braced.

Up down 1

Start on your forearms, abs, glutes, and legs engaged. Be sure not to sag or hike your butt, and keep your gaze slightly in front of your hands without dropping your head.

Up down 2

Place your left palm on the ground and extend the elbow, following with the right arm.

Up down 3

Then lower the right forearm to the ground, followed by the left, returning to the start position. Be sure to switch sides every rep, and perform about 5 reps per side.


2. The TGU “Roll”. The “TGU” or Turkish Get Up, is an incredible full body exercise—but it’s also very complex and takes a lot of practice. The very first “roll,” however, boasts incredible benefits for your obliques and shoulders, and is relatively simple to perform.

TGU 1

Start on your right side, grasping the kettlebell (or dumbbell) deep in the palm of your right hand, and pulling it in close to your body. Roll to your back and use both hands to press the bell up towards the ceiling, extending your right arm. It’s very important that your wrist is not bent back, and your knuckles are flush with the ceiling.

“Pack” your right shoulder by pulling it down and back (not shrugged up into your ear!) and bend the right knee with your right foot firmly on the ground. The left leg and arm should be on the ground at 45-degree angles.

TGU 2

Keeping your right shoulder “packed,” breathe out as you roll up onto your left forearm. It helps to press the left forearm and the right leg firmly into the ground. Pause, and roll back to your back with your left shoulder touching the ground first, and then the right. Repeat for 5-10 reps, and then switch sides.





3. The Suitcase Deadlift

. Offsetting the weight in this deadlift variation makes for a challenging core exercise. The tricky part is making sure you don’t deviate from the starting position when you pick up the weight!

Suitcase 1

Place a kettlebell or dumbbell on a small box, standing directly next to it with feet hip distance apart. Squat down and grasp the handle, “packing” the shoulder by pulling it down and back and squeezing under the armpit. Make sure your knees are pointing straight ahead at all times, and that one knee or hip doesn’t jut out in front of the other.

Suitcase 2

Stand up with the weight, keeping everything aligned, and return the weight to the box exactly the same way as you picked it up. Perform 5-10 reps and switch sides.

4. The Rolling Plank

. This plank exercise is a great way to challenge your abs, obliques, and shoulders.

Rolling 1

Start on your forearms as in the up/down plank, but this time with your arms perpendicular to your body. You should form a straight line from ear to ankle, abs, glutes, and legs engaged. Be sure not to sag or hike your butt, and keep your gaze slightly in front of your hands without dropping your head.

Rolling 2

Rotate to one side, pulling your top shoulder back and packing your bottom shoulder. Engage the obliques by lifting up as high as possible through your side, then return to the start position and switch sides. Perform 5-10 reps on each side.

Rolling 3

5. The Kettlebell Swing. The king of all core exercise, the kettlebell swing works your entire body. It’s a dynamic exercise that requires you master a simple kettlebell deadlift first, but once you can perform it safely, it’s an amazing move for power, strength, stability, and fat loss.

Swing 1

Once you can perform a safe deadlift, start by sitting your hips back, spine long, knees slightly bent and feet just outside of hips distance. The kettlebell should be slightly in front of you, and as you reach for the bell, pull your shoulders down and back to engage your lats. In this position you should feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings and some engagement in your glutes; you should not feel any strain in your low back.

Swing 2

As you inhale, pull the kettlebell high through your legs, making sure to never let the bell fall below your knees. As you exhale forcefully, snap your hips to propel the kettlebell forward. When you’re locked out at the top, it should feel just like a plank for a brief moment before pulling the bell back down through the legs. Your glutes, abs, and legs should all be tight and fiercely engaged in the top position.

Swing 3

It’s important to never round your back at the bottom or arch your back at the top. It’s also worth noting that the movement is all in the hips, and the arms are only there to guide the bell—not lift it. If done properly and safely, you should feel the swing in your glutes, hamstrings, abs, lats, and even quads. Perform 5-10 reps per set if just starting out, and 10-20 once you’ve mastered the movement.

Writer, fitness expert, entrepreneur, and mom, Neghar Fonooni is passionate about helping people empower themselves to live a vibrant, fulfilling life. Her intention is to teach women how to find and cultivate their inner radiance, living a lifestyle of their own design.