The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed changes to help clarify the “Nutrition Facts” panel found on packaged foods and beverages—but there still will be plenty of confusion. Here’s what to keep in mind…

  • Serving sizes will become more realistic. The current Nutrition Facts panel presents information on a “per serving” basis—but the serving sizes often are unrealistic. On today’s labels, for example, a pint of ice cream often is listed as four servings. The new rules will increase the serving sizes to amounts that more people actually ­consume.

The catch: The new serving sizes still might not reflect the amount you actually eat. For example, the proposed rules would increase ice cream serving size from one-half cup to a full cup—but that’s still less than many people eat in a single sitting.

  • Sodium “percent of daily value” figures will be based on total daily sodium consumption of 2,300 milligrams (mg). That’s slightly lower than the 2,400 mg used in the past.

The catch: This figure is the maximum amount of sodium that’s considered healthy, not the recommended consumption level. The American Heart Association recommends limiting ­sodium consumption to less than 1,500 mg a day. If you have high blood pressure, kidney disease or certain other conditions, even that could be too much.

“Added sugars” will receive special attention. Food and beverage makers often add high-fructose corn syrup, cane juice or other sugars to the naturally occurring sugars in their products to make them even sweeter. Under the new rules, they would have to specify how many grams of sugar have been added.

The catch: Consumers might glance only at this “Added Sugars” figure and overlook the line that simply reads, “Sugars,” which includes both ­added and natural sugar. If they do, they might underestimate the total amount of ­sugar—which can be especially dangerous for people with diabetes.

  • Many tricky terms will continue to be allowed. For example, the new rules will do nothing to prevent food makers from implying that “fat-free” and “sugar-free” mean a product is good for us, when in fact, many “fat-free” foods contain lots of sugar and many “sugar-free” foods contain lots of fat.