National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
What's New on the Nutrition Facts Label?
9 - 12
Students will be introduced to the redesigned Nutrition Facts label being implemented from 2016-2020, navigate and decipher the Nutrition Facts label, use food labels to determine nutritive value of foods, and define terminology found on the label such as calories, nutrients, and servings.
- 8-10 food packages (a variety of food types)
- What's New on the Nutrition Facts Label? handout, 1 per student
- What's New on the Nutrition Facts Label? KEY, digital copy to project
- Navigating the Nutrition Facts Label PowerPoint
- Navigating the Nutrition Facts Label handout, 1 per student
- Foldable Notes cutout page, 1 per student printed front to back
- Student access to scissors, glue/tape, and colored pencils
- Food Label Smarts video
- Nutrition Facts Label Cards, 1 copy/set per group of 3-4 students (cut each sheet in half to make 10 cards)
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- Navigating the Nutrition Facts Label PowerPoint
- Nutrition Facts Label Cards
- Foldable Notes Cutout Page
- Navigating the Nutrition Facts Label handout
- What's New on the Nutrition Facts Label KEY
- What's New on the Nutrition Facts Label handout
Food and Drug Administration: a federal agency in the United States responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, and the safety of our nation's food supply
Nutrition Facts: a label required by law on food packages indicating the nutritional composition of the food
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- Food manufacturers determine the nutrient contents of their own products to indicate on the Nutrition Facts label. The FDA does not initially check for accuracy, but they collect samples to monitor accuracy of the information provided. 1
- In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the United States Department of Agriculture. Lincoln called the USDA “The People’s Department” because it touches the lives of every American, every day. The USDA still fulfills this mission overseeing the production of our food.2
- The origin of the FDA traces back to the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act.3
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Before class, gather 8-10 different food products, and display them on a table or countertop where your class can see them.
- At the beginning of class, challenge the students to place the food in order from the greatest to the least amount of sugar per serving. You may choose to invite one or two students to categorize the food in front of the class or seek input from your entire class to accomplish the task together.
- Give student(s) 1-2 minutes to complete the challenge. After student(s) finish, ask how they came to their conclusion. If the students did not use the Nutrition Facts labels on the food packages, ask the class, “Is there a way to obtain this information from the food we eat? (Yes, the Nutrition Facts label.)
- Use the Nutrition Facts labels to check the accuracy of the food ranking. Show students where the nutrition labels can be found on the food packages. Ask students if any of the food surprised them by having more or less sugar than they imagined.
- Explain that nearly every packaged food sold in a grocery store is required to have a food label. Ask the students why they think it is important to have labels on the food we eat. (To know the amount of sugar/fat and other nutrients, for consumers to address specific health concerns impacted by their diet, or to avoid food they are allergic to.)
Activity 1: What’s New on the Nutrition Facts Label?
- Explain to the class that since the 1960s, packaged foods have contained a Nutrition Facts label. Since then, labels have been modified and improved to add clarity and address societal patterns in food consumption. In 2016, the most recent change occurred. Food manufacturers have until 2020 to convert their labels to the new format. As a result, you will see both new and old labels on your foods until then.
- Hand out the What’s New on the Nutrition Facts Label handout. Explain to the students that the nutrition label on the left is the old food label, and the one on the right is the new food label. Instruct students to circle or highlight the differences they find between the two food labels.
- Teacher tip: Students might notice a few of the numbers are different. For example Total fat percentage is 10% on the old label and 12% on the new. Those are not the differences they are trying to find.
- After students have 2-3 minutes to circle and highlight the differences, invite students to share their answers. Project the attached What's New on the Nutrition Facts Label Key for students to see. Outline and explain each change to the label. Explain that the changes have occurred as a result of scientific research and a response to trends occurring in our society. The new formatting and requirements for the Nutrition Facts label are intended to make the label easier to read and help consumers make more educated decisions on their dietary intake.
- Using the foods found in your classroom (foods from the Interest Approach as well as drinks or snacks your students may have with them), have students look at the Nutrition Facts labels and determine which are the new labels and which still have the old formatting. Discuss the benefits (or drawbacks) your students find in the new label.
Activity 2: Navigating the Nutrition Facts Label
- Stimulate thinking about the Nutrition Facts labels by asking, “Besides raw, unpackaged produce and some fresh fish and meat cuts, what foods can you find at the grocery store that are NOT required to have a Nutrition Facts label?” (Foods that contain insignificant amounts [zero] of all required nutrients. Examples include tea, coffee, food coloring, and spices.) If students do not come up with the correct answer, offer an incentive to the person who comes to the next class with the answer.
- Give each student one copy of the Navigating the Nutrition Facts Label handout and one copy of the Foldable Notes cutout page (printed front to back).
- Instruct students to cut out the Foldable Notes page and glue or tape it to their handout. Show them an example and remind them to cut along the solid lines and fold on the dotted lines.
- Ask students why it is important to be able to read and understand a Nutrition Facts label? (To know the amount of nutrients we are putting into our bodies, to avoid under or over nourishment, and to help us be educated about the foods we are eating.)
- Project the Navigating the Nutrition Facts Label PowerPoint and use it as a guide for a discussion with your students. Introduce and explain each portion of the Nutrition Facts label. Instruct students to add some notes to their handout under each tab (see example below).
- Summarize that the Nutrition Facts label helps us eat and live healthier as we are more informed about the nutrient content of our food. Watch, Food Label Smarts.
Activity 3: Ranking Food Labels
- Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students. Give each group one set of Nutrition Facts Label Cards. (They should have 10 cards per group.)
- Explain to the students that they will be evaluating each nutrition label and ranking the foods according to different parameters. Direct the activity with the entire class, or provide a task list for individual groups to work independently.
- Use as many categorizing activities as time allows. Examples include:
- Rank from highest to lowest
- Number of calories
- Total fat
- Dietary Fiber
- Total sugars
- Added sugars
- Vitamin D
- Compare or find correlations
- Is there any correlation between total carbohydrates and total sugars? (Yes, sugars are a specific type of carbohydrate. Foods high in sugar are often also high in carbohydrates.)
- Which food provides a significant source (20% or greater) of one of the 4 vitamins/minerals (Vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and iron)? (Cheese pizza-calcium)
- What is unique or different about the Oats and Honey Clusters label? (Explain to students the use of the dual column label. Certain food products that can be eaten in one sitting have a dual column label listing the calories and nutrients per serving as well as per package.)
- Rank from highest to lowest
- Ask follow up questions such as, "Did anything surprise you about these foods?" or "What questions do you have?"
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the follow key concepts:
- Government organizations such as the FDA oversee the labeling of foods in the United States. They set standards for food processing companies to follow to communicate nutrition facts to consumers.
- Accurately reading a Nutrition Facts label and using the information to follow dietary recommendations can help lead to a healthier diet and lifestyle.
- A variety of foods can contribute to a healthy diet.
- All foods are required to have a Nutrition Facts label with the exception of raw produce, some fresh meat cuts, and foods with zero nutritional content such as coffee, tea, or spices.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Assign students a homework assignment to find two Nutrition Facts labels; one in the new format and one in the old format.
Watch the video clip, What is a calorie?
Have students construct their own food label for their favorite recipe.
Students have just learned about the Nutrition Facts label found on the side or back of food packages. Many food packages also have nutritional health claims that are often found on the front of food packages. Read Health Claims on Food Labels to expand knowledge of the information found on the front of food packages.
Suggested Companion Resources
- How to Read Food Labels, From Free-range to Fair Trade (Multimedia)
- How to Read Nutrition Facts - Food Labels Made Easy video (Multimedia)
- Nutrition Ag Mag (Booklets & Readers)
- Nutrition Research Articles (Booklets & Readers)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
- Explain the role of government in the production and consumption of food (T5.9-12.i)
Food, Health, and Lifestyle
- Accurately read labels on processed food to determine nutrition content (T3.9-12.a)
- Identify how various foods can contribute to a healthy diet (T3.9-12.g)
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
- Provide examples of how processing adds value to agricultural goods and fosters economic growth both locally and globally (T4.9-12.g)
Education Content Standards
Health Standard 1: Comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health.
1.12.1Predict how healthy behaviors can affect health status.
Health Standard 2: Analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology, and other factors on health behaviors.
2.12.10Analyze how public health policies and government regulations can influence health promotion and disease prevention.
Health Standard 3: The ability to access valid information, products, and services to enhance health.
3.12.2Use resources from home, school, and community that provide valid health information.
Health Standard 5: Demonstrate the ability to use decision-making skills to enhance health.
5.12.1Examine barriers that can hinder healthy decision making.
Health Standard 6: Demonstrate the ability to use goal-setting skills to enhance health.
6.12.1Assess personal health practices and overall health status.
Health Standard 7: Demonstrate the ability to practice health-enhancing behaviors and avoid or reduce health risks.
7.12.2Demonstrate a variety of healthy practices and behaviors that will maintain or improve the health of self and others.
Common Core Connections
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.