Any effort for a healthy lifestyle has us running toward healthy food. At the very least, paying more attention to labels. Food labels have had a love/hate relationship with American diets. The changes in food recommendations has fluctuated so often the average consumer has stopped paying attention.
Do you pay attention to your food labels?
If this were a perfect world, with abundance and fresh food for all, there would be no need for the boxes and bags that makes up an average pantry. Even if we are lucky – and living in the center of Sonoma County Wine Country, I count myself in this group – there is still the draw for comfort and easy prep that comes in boxed and bagged food.
Just take a look at my own pantry, or what we typically call the Carb Closet. Plenty of bags, cans and boxes to choose from, but we are well aware of what they hold in store. Processed grains, sugars, and additives that are impossible to pronounce.
Our family’s goal is to use these items as backup and ingredients, not the main show for dinner every night.
Every one of these labels tells a story of how it was made and in some cases, the complete lack of “food” that is included inside.
Would you eat differently if a food label told you realistic serving sizes?
That’s the plan that is currently in the works. The government is taking another stab at correctly offering the information we need on the food that we eat.
This will be the first Food Label update by the FDA in 21 years. In the time since the last food label update in 1993, the eating habits and food trends in America has changed significantly.
As the changes are still under discussion and in the works, a lot of the details are still unofficial. Most likely the new labeling system will include changes that make the calories more visible, listing differences between natural sugars and any added sugars, and my favorite: Make serving sizes more realistic.
“We know that the quantities of food, the sizes of packages, and the actual amounts people are eating have changed in the last 20 years so it’s about time that we recognize we need new food intake data to work with,” Post, formerly the associate executive director of the Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, said in a telephone interview.
The share of people who say they often use food labels rose to 54 percent in 2008 from 44 percent in 2002, the FDA said on its website.
The amount of math you have to do now when reading labels for calorie information is crazy. Changes to the serving size may help with this issue, and is one of the recommendations from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest gave the FDA its wish list for these labels. It wants a label that will emphasize calorie counts, perhaps in a bigger or bolder font size or in a number highlighted in some way.
The organization would also like added sugar to get its own line on labels. Studies show many Americans eat more sugar than they realize.
Look before you eat.
Food labels are there for a reason. Just because they say “Healthy!” or “Lower Fat!” doesn’t make them an instant winner in the nutrient department.
So I have to ask: are you a food label reader?
I mentioned before, that in the perfect whole food accessibility world, never mind the time to prep and cook it all up, this wouldn’t be a skill that any of us would need. But we do need to understand it for our own health.
Are you going to turn that box/bag/can around at the store next time, and actually pay attention to what’s in it?
Share your opinion and comment.
Go get your fit on – Heather
Heather Montgomery is a fitness writer, triathlete, and blogger who is devoted to sharing what she has learned about becoming a triathlete after age 40. She uses her Metabolic Training Certification to help other women struggling to get fit in mid-life. She lives and trains in Santa Rosa, California, the new home of the Ironman triathlon. You can find her biking the Sonoma County wine trails.