There has been much talk about nutrition labels lately. Before my infatuation with food began I barely looked at them. Then I went to college, gained a little weight and was forced to start looking at labels and packages. I learned a lot and now I follow 8 simple steps to staying thin and healthy as a food writer.
It was pretty confusing in the beginning. I think the most helpful thing to learn was understanding serving size. Just because a box says that an item has only 100 calories does not mean that the whole box is 100 calories. Most likely, it’s 100 calories per serving.
But even after one looks at the calories per serving size; one has to decipher what the numbers mean. The question is: exactly what does 100 calories mean?
The example above is a small change that would make nutrition labels better. Most people don’t understand how to read calories. What good is it if a label states that a can of cola has 140 calories. If you don’t know how calories work, it may as well say 1,000 calories.
If we made things more visual, people could make better choices. Labels should be outfitted with universal signs to illustrate how much physical activity it would take to burn off one serving and one package. Instead of seeing 140 calories per serving on a can of coke, one would see that it takes a half hour of brisk walking to burn those calories off.
This is particularly important as the obesity epidemic grows. The latest numbers from the American Heart Association show that:
-23.9 million children ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese; 33.0% of boys and 30.4% of girls.
-Among Americans age 20 and older, 154.7 million are overweight or obese (BMI of 25.0 kg/m2 and higher)
– Of these, 78.4 million are obese (BMI of 30.0 kg/m2 and higher)
– The total excess cost related to the current prevalence of adolescent overweight and obesity is estimated to be $254 billion ($208 billion in lost productivity secondary to premature morbidity and mortality and $46 billion in direct medical costs).
– If current trends in the growth of obesity continue, total healthcare costs attributable to obesity could reach $861 to $957 billion by 2030, which would account for 16% to 18% of US health expenditures.
I just had an uncle pass away from a heart attack related to his obesity. His heart just could not take the stress of his 265lb+ pound body (he was around 5’5″). He left my aunt and his three children in heartache. His death could have been easily. He drank 2 liters of soda per day, and loved his lasagna and ketchup. He did not exercise. Last time I saw him, I told him that I was pretty sure he was diabetic. He had sores that were not healing, had sleep apnea, and digestive problems. He waved off my warning until he had a scare. He tried to get healthy, but alas it was too late. The call came in one night, completely unexpected. I thought he’d be with us at least a little bit longer.
We need to do something about this issue now. Not just because it costs the country so much money, but because obesity kills and leaves families in heart ache. This type of nutrition labeling is just one step. There must be comprehensive education so that children know how to eat in a healthier manner. Companies must be pushed towards offering healthier choices. We must not idolize people like the queen of butter, Paula Deen.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this, so let me know in the comments.
I miss you tio.