Understanding Food Labels

Written By:
Stefanie Dove, RDN
School Nutrition Marketing Coordinator and Registered Dietitian
Loudoun County Public Schools

Understanding the information on the food label might seem overwhelming or even confusing, however, today’s post will help breakdown the information on the label so that you can feel empowered the next time you venture to the grocery store.  Reading food labels will allow you to find out more about the foods you eat, thus helping you to make informed food buying decisions for your family.  Our school nutrition team looks at all of our nutrition labels in detail for all items we serve and prepare for students daily.

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The current Nutrition Facts panel found on most food labels will be changing very soon as manufacturers have until July 2018 to comply with these changes, however, you will notice that some have already started this transition. These changes to the label will help make some of the information easier to find, easy to read, and most importantly, easier to understand. Some of the most noticeable changes are:

  • Serving sizes: The serving sizes listed on packaging now reflect what people currently eat, rather than what a company may view as reasonable. This means that some serving sizes that were equivalent to only a few chips might now reflect the whole package.
  • Calories: The total number of calories per serving is now highlighted in a large font rather than being in the same type size as the other nutrition information.
  • Added sugars: This is something that is completely new to the nutrition label.  Similar to how fat is broken down on the label, added sugars will now be measured in both grams and as a percent daily value. This change will allow consumers to see the difference between sugars added during processing versus sugars that come naturally, such as in fresh fruits and dairy.
  • Multi-serving Products: For those products that contain multiple servings, there will now be two columns to indicate the per serving and per package calorie nutrition information to allow for easier label reading.
  • Unconventional Serving Sizes: All food items that are between one and two servings such as a 20-oz bottle of soda or juice, will now be labeled as one serving to help eliminate confusion.
  • Dietary Fiber and Sodium: The percent daily values for sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D will change for many foods based on the new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations. This means that the new recommendations either increase or decrease the amount you need to eat to satisfy those needs. An example of this is the previous recommendation for Americans to eat up to 25 grams of fiber day as part of a nutritionally balanced diet.  The new recommendations encourage up to 28 grams a day, so if a food item contains 5 grams of fiber per serving, the old label would have listed 20 for the percent daily value. The new food label will have 18 percent for the percent daily value.
  • Vitamin D and potassium: Labels will now include both the percent daily values and the gram amount since these are nutrients that American’s are not getting enough of on a daily basis.
  • Vitamins A and C: These will no longer be required on labels since the average American receives an adequate amount of these nutrients on a daily basis and deficiencies are rare.
  • Fat: The “Calories from Fat” line will be eliminated, however, “Total Fat,” and the subcategories “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will still be required since new research shows that the type of fat consumed is important.

The Benefits of Reading Nutrition Labels

•Reading labels can help you determine which foods are good sources of dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.
•You can compare similar foods to find out which one is lower in calories, sugar, fat, etc.
•Nutrition labels help you to check your portion sizes to against the serving size listed on the label.Use percent Daily Values (DV) to help you evaluate how a particular food fits into your daily eating plan:
•You can review the percent Daily Values (DV) to help you assess how specific foods fit into your daily eating plan for the entire day and are based on a person consuming 2,000 calories per day.  Keep in mind that depending on how many calories you eat each day, you may need more or less than 100% DV.

Use Nutrition Labels to Help You Monitor These Things:

  • Try to select foods with saturated fats containing less than 10% of total calories daily by replacing them with unsaturated fats.
  • Avoid and limit trans fats to as low as possible.New guidelines recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg daily (for adults and children 14 years and older).
  • Keep added sugars to less than 10% of total calories daily.

For more food label information, visit the Food and Drug Administration  or contact LCPS School Nutrition Services for additional information as we are happy to help answer any questions you might have. 

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School Nutrition Hosts District Wide Taste Test

The Harvest of the Month promotion began last school year and continues to be a popular event at all 87 schools in Loudoun County this year.  This farm to school promotion allows all students in the county to try a new seasonal fruit or vegetable at no cost each month.  Students have been able to try everything from parsnips and tricolor cauliflower to locally grown apples.

The feature item for February is starfruit.  This will be available during lunch to all elementary students on Thursday, February 16th as part of the Taste It Thursday promotion and to all middle and high school students on Friday, February 17th as part of the Fear Factor Friday promotion.

Not only does this promotion help expose students to new food items, it has also turned into a successful collaboration between School Nutrition Services and Monroe Technology graphic arts students.  The students design all of the posters for the events and send them to the schools monthly as their One to the World project.

The School Nutrition staff works closely with the students to discuss themes, design, and the Registered Dietitians work with them to provide interesting facts about each item being featured. These events take place each month.  There is a great lineup for the rest of the school year with blood oranges, watermelon radishes and fresh strawberries being the featured items.

Want to know more about this promotion? Visit your school cafeteria or stop by the School Nutrition website to discover some of the other activities we have going on in our schools.

 

School Nutrition Kicks Off One to the World Project at Guilford

Last month, School Nutrition Services partnered with the third grade classes at Guilford Elementary to kick off their One to the World (OTTW) project, “how can we as student chefs be healthy eaters.” Over the next few weeks, students will discuss this topic in depth through a variety of project-based learning assignments that will help them in answering this question.


The students were brought into the cafeteria where they sat down to discuss their new project and participate in an “eating the rainbow” nutrition education lesson that was conducted by Stefanie Dove, Registered Dietitian and School Nutrition Marketing Coordinator with Loudoun County Schools. Students discussed how certain vegetables grow, why the specific colors of fruit and vegetables are beneficial, as well as the importance of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables daily.

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School Nutrition Services Farm to School Coordinator, Jennifer Hein, collaborated with Willowsford Farm, who generously donated over 40 pounds of fresh produce for this taste party. Students were able to try everything from watermelon radishes, purple cabbage, and tricolor carrots to peppers and kale. After the taste test, students then discussed their opinions on the vegetables they tasted while making recommendations for how they could use some of those items in healthy recipes.


The excess produce from the taste party was packaged in the cafeteria at Guilford and distributed to 20 families as part of the Backpack Buddy program. Each bag also contained recipes for the items included in the produce bags so that families were able to prepare those items that were less common.


This taste test was also made possible in part by the USDA Farm to School Planning Grant that Loudoun County School Nutrition Services received earlier this year.
For more information on the Farm to School program or if you are interested in having School Nutrition Services help with a One to the World project in your classroom, please contact Stefanie Dove, RDN, CDN by email at Stefanie.Dove@LCPS.org or by phone at (571) 252-6502.

School Nutrition Announces Farm to School Art Contest Winners

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School Nutrition Services kicked off National Farm to School Month in October with their first annual art contest. The theme for the 2016 contest was “What Farm to School Means to Me.” The contest was open to all Loudoun County students’ grades K-12. There were 75 entries in the contest from grades K-8 only. All entries went through a preliminary judging and the top 14 were then submitted for the final judging by an esteemed panel of judges where all student and school identifying information was omitted from the entries.

Grand Prize winner: Parnika S., Mercer Middle School, 8th Grade

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Elementary Winners:
Craftsmanship: Abigail K., Madison’s Trust Elementary, 2nd Grade

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Visual Impact: Ashley S., Lowes Island Elementary, 4th Grade

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Interpretation and Creativity: Ishaan D., Meadowland Elementary, 2nd Grade

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Honorable Mention: Katelyn M., Kenneth Culbert Elementary School, 5th Grade

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Middle School Winners:
Interpretation & Creativity: Charly B., Trailside Middle School, 6th Grade

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Visual Impact: Parnika S., Mercer Middle School, 8th Grade

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Craftsmanship: Samah N., Mercer Middle School, 6th Grade

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Composition and Design: Zoe L., Eagle Ridge Middle School, 7th Grade

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Honorable Mention: Anaghasree H., Stone Hill Middle School, 8th Grade

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The grand prize winner will have their artwork featured on Loudoun Farm Tour marketing materials for the spring 2017 season. The individual winners in both elementary and middle school will have their artwork developed into posters that will be displayed in the cafeteria at their individual schools. All participants will receive a certificate of participation in the art contest.
Loudoun County Public Library has also agreed to feature the student entries at various locations. The dates and locations for these exhibits will be announced in January, 2017. The artwork will also be featured on School Nutrition Services website http://www.lcpshealthycafe.org.
The judges for the art contest were:
Dr. Becky Domokos-Bays, RDN, SNS
Supervisor, School Nutrition Services
Loudoun County Public Schools

Kellie Hinkle
Agricultural Development Officer
Loudoun Economic Development

Cassie Walls
Rural Business Development Assistant
Loudoun Economic Development

Chris VanVlack
President of the Board
Loudoun County Farm Bureau

Lorraine Moffa
Library Aide
Loudoun County Public Library

Stephanie Kehoe
Art Teacher
Stone Hill Middle School

If you have any questions or comments regarding this contest, please contact Stefanie Dove by email at Stefanie.Dove@LCPS.org or by phone at (571)252-6502.

This promotion was made in part by the USDA Farm to School Planning Grant.

School Nutrition Services Brings FOODPLAY Productions to Aldie Elementary

This past July, members of the School Nutrition Services Department attended the annual School Nutrition Association conference in San Antonio, Texas where they met members of FOODPLAY Productions.  In September, it was announced that one lucky school from LCPS would be awarded a free FOODPLAY assembly.  School Nutrition Services selected Aldie Elementary as the recipient for this assembly that was held on November 18th during American Education Week.

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FOODPLAY’s fun-filled performance puts healthy eating and active lifestyles center stage. Along with a school-wide assembly performance, schools receive extensive follow-up resources to keep the messages alive in the classroom, cafeteria, and at home, all year long. The highly spirited program helps get everyone at school excited and on board to work together to create healthier schools and improve children’s eating and physical activity habits.

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During the school-wide assembly program, children meet “Janey (or Johnny) Junkfood,” whose dream is to become a juggling super star. The problem – s/he keeps dropping the balls because of her/his poor eating habits. Like many of today’s children, JJ skips breakfast, fills up on soda and candy, zones out in front of the TV and computer, and then
wonders why s/he’s sick, tired, and out of practice. With the help of the “Coach” of the National Junior Juggling Team, and the audience, JJ discovers how to juggle the foods s/he eats to wind up with a balanced diet. Kids learn the importance of fueling up with breakfast, and if they don’t get breakfast at home, they can get breakfast at school. They learn how to eat to win using USDA’s MyPlate food guide, filling half their plates with fresh fruits and vegetables, and choosing whole grains, low-fat calcium-rich sources, and lean protein foods. Students take back a host of fun ways to be physically active every day including participating in sports, de-stressing with yoga, dancing indoors on a rainy day, and taking walks with their families.

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The program empowers kids with the skills needed to make sense of a confusing food marketplace by seeing through TV commercials and deciphering food labels. While health experts recommend that people consume less than six teaspoons of added sugar a day, kids are amazed to discover that there are ten teaspoons of sugar in one can of cola, and that for many sports drinks, sugar is the main ingredient! Coach teaches kids how to “Read It Before You Eat It!” and explains that the main ingredient is listed first on ingredient labels. And while a food or beverage may be advertised as “natural” or “nutritious” – there are tricks along the way. There are, for example, many names for sugar, including “high fructose corn syrup,” and several can be found in one food product.

FOODPLAY Makes Good Eating Great Fun

To test their nutrition smarts, kids participate in the “Super Star Snack Attack!” The challenge for the three game show contestants is to choose the healthiest snacks from a variety of fresh and processed packaged items. The winning snacks turn out to be the ones that they can prepare themselves such as popcorn, veggie grab bags, yogurt parfait, rainbow fruit sticks, and natural soda made by mixing half fruit juice, half seltzer. Kids discover that choosing fresh foods is not only good for their health, but it’s good for the health of the planet. The contestants receive “FoodPlay Fruit + Veggie Tracker Bands” – a fun tool that encourages kids to eat more fruits and veggies throughout their day, and the audience receives snack cards to bring home and post on their fridge. As students return to their classrooms to the beat of “Treat Your Body Right!” – FOODPLAY’s message comes in loud and clear: feed healthy foods to your body, positive messages to your mind, and have fun being active every day.

For more information, free nutrition resources, recipes, and tips, visit: www.foodplay.com
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School Nutrition Kicks Off Fall With Taste Parties

In October, Loudoun County School Nutrition Services took to the polls to have students from seven, K-12 schools to vote on new menu items that could be added to the breakfast and lunch menus next school year. A hand selected group of students from each school were brought into the cafeteria, where they were served these new items and asked to vote on them using emoji evaluation cards.

Some of the items students tried were: buffalo chicken legs, baked chicken with whole grain waffles, garlic knots, whole grain biscuits, buffalo chicken crunchers, sliced turkey, a variety of new red and black bean items, honey sriracha chicken, new soup recipes, street tacos, and the new vegetarian pepperoni for pizza to name a few.

After the students sampled and voted on these new items, the results will be tallied by School Nutrition Services and those items with high ratings will be included on the menu for next year.  School Nutrition relies on student feedback to incorporate items that they like and want to see on the menu.  Each year, different schools are selected to provide this opportunity to students across the county.

Last year, School Nutrition surveyed all secondary students to find out what they would like to see changed on the menus and this school year, those comments and concerns were addressed.

For more information on the menu and School Nutrition Services, please visit www.lcpshealthycafe.org

 

LCPS Teachers Receive School Garden Training As Part of USDA Farm to School Grant

Twenty-four Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) teachers participated in a school garden training program on Saturday, October 15th, at Willowsford Farm in Ashburn.

The workshop was funded by a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant that was awarded to the LCPS School Nutrition Services Department earlier this year. The workshop was coordinated by Sarah Holoway and Lea Howe of DC Greens.  DC Greens is a non-profit organization that addresses food education, food access and food policy.
“Partnering with our teachers is a natural progression of the work School Nutrition Services does every day to help students learn the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables.  We provide a practical extension of what students learn in school gardens and classrooms,” said LCPS School Nutrition Services Supervisor Dr. Becky Domokos-Bays.
Lola Bloom of D.C. Bilingual Charter School presented an interactive cooking workshop that modeled tips and tricks for cooking with students.  Ibti Vincent and Kealy Rudersdorf of Fresh Farms Food Prints program led an outdoor workshop on how to integrate school gardens into the curriculum to meet Virginia Standards of Learning for every grade level.
“It is rare as teachers that we are given the opportunity to be with such a wide range of professionals; such as chefs, farmers, non-profit groups who provide unique garden-based instruction or cooking,” said Mary Cunningham of Frederick Douglass Elementary. “You learn from each of these individuals and their experiences and are given hands-on experiences that can be taken back to your school to further develop your garden-to-table program. Most importantly, you feel supported, inspired and driven to doing more for this type of instruction.”
LCPS School Nutrition Services supports all school gardens and can provide resources and support to schools wishing to start a garden.  Please contactStefanie.Dove@LCPS.org for more information.