Some disheartening information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC): Obesity, despite growing awareness to nutrition and healthy living, is still on the rise. Various agencies pin the numbers between 27%-33% of the population, depending on how the measurement was taken. All agree that the numbers are rising.
Which begs the question, why?
Why are people still eating poorly, despite knowing about the consequences.
There are probably many reasons, but one of them could be the inability to translate awareness to action.
Think of your last visit to the supermarket. How do you know if you chose healthy food? Did you read the nutrition facts and ingredient list for products you were contemplating? Did you understand the information provided? Not very easy to comprehend, is it?
A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, “Food Label Use and Its Relation to Dietary Intake among U.S. Adults“, looks at the use of nutrition labeling by consumers when shopping at the supermarket. Using a nationally representative sample of US adults, the researchers found that:
- More than 6 out 10 of participants reported using the Nutrition Facts panel,
- Half looked at the list of ingredients,
- 4.5 out of 10 looked at serving size, and
- 4 out of 10 reviewed health claims at least sometimes when deciding to purchase a food product.
The scientists found a correlation between label usage and healthier food choices and consumption. Assuming healthier food leads to lower weight (portion size is also important), we can postulate that getting more people to use nutrition labels will help lower obesity.
But nutrition labels are not “user-friendly” enough. In many cases, health claims on the front of package obfuscate the less glamorous ingredients and nutrients in a product. If people could more readily understand what they were really getting, perhaps their choices would improve.
There are many possible changes in nutrition labeling that could help people make better choices – serving sizes that are closer to what people actually consume, added sugar vs sugar naturally present, actual percentage of each ingredient, stricter regulations regarding health claims, and more.
Unfortunately, the food industry is not interested in these changes, and with a strong lobby will fight legislation to change the existing label.
What to do at the supermarket:
Educate yourself about nutrition labels so that you can make better choices. Ignore health claims and other marketing messages on the front of package and head straight to the nutrient facts and ingredient lists. And give us a shout if you need help…