The word “healthy” means something different for everyone. We all have personal health conditions and goals to consider, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to diet, nutrition, fitness, or wellness. However, brands often label their packaging with buzz words like “healthy,” “natural,” and “fresh,” which can be misleading—or furthermore, meaningless—if the terms are undefined. In order to enable consumers to more easily and quickly make smart food choices, the FDA has begun a public process to redefine the “healthy” nutrient content claim for food labeling.
According to new guidance from the FDA, food products labeled as “healthy,” should essentially meet two criteria: they should be low in fat* and they should have beneficial nutrients that reduce risk of chronic disease and sustain body function. Since health recommendations and science related to diet have evolved, the FDA’s modernized guidelines now focus on the type of fat a food includes, rather than just the amount. Foods labeled “healthy” that are not low in total fat should be made up predominantly of mono and polyunsaturated fats. Additionally, as nutrient intakes have shifted over time, the FDA is now focusing on potassium and vitamin D, in addition to iron and calcium, as beneficial nutrients. In the past, the focus had only been on vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and dietary fiber.
To augment these criteria, policymakers are additionally looking for input on redefining the term “healthy” from food makers, health experts, and the general public. Supplementing the above, new guidelines will likely also focus on limiting sugar intake, which has been linked to heart disease and obesity. If you want to get involved and weigh in with your own thoughts and research, you can submit them electronically to the FDA.
What do you consider “healthy”? Sound off in the comments.