Sunday, December 13, 2009

Label Mania

Did you see this blog post by the New York Times? It made me so happy! Basically, the food label may be getting a makeover soon. If I had to name one thing/person who needed a makeover the most, it would be food labels (and of course a few others that I have in mind, but I won't mention names....I'm on the top of that list!).

Here is what the article says they are proposing for food labels:

1) Put calorie and serving size information in larger type at the top of the label so it’s immediately clear how much you are eating.

My thoughts: This is a great idea. Currently the print is so small, it gets lost with everything else. Take this label (above), for example, the serving size is first, but it's not highlighted, people may not even notice it! 150 calories doesn't sound like a lot, but if you knew it was only 7 chips that provided those calories, that may be a whole other story.

2) Make the ingredient list easier to read by printing it in regular type instead of all capital letters. Use bullets to separate ingredients rather than allowing them to all run together.

My thoughts: I had not even really thought about this before, how about you? Now that I think about it this is a great point, they do all run together. Check out the food label below, yikes!

3) List minor ingredients and allergens separately from the main ingredient list. Highlight allergy information in red.


My thoughts: I have often struggle to find if products contain wheat (FODMAPS diet says no wheat). Check out the label above, the allergens blend right in with the ingredients. If the allergens were highlighted in red it would make my life, and many others', easier. Plus I could tell clients what to look for. I think the label below does a great job of making the allergens easy to find. They are listed separately and in bold, but if they were red it would be even easier to find for those who have to look for this information on EVERY SINGLE LABEL.


4) List similar ingredients together and show the percentage by weight. For instance, sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and grape juice concentrate are all forms of sugar and should be listed in parenthesis under the catchall heading “sugars".

My thoughts: This may confuse people who have already gotten used to seeing the ingredients listed in order of percentage by weight. However, I think it's a great idea, as many people don't understand that corn syrup, and many concentrates are just another word for "sugar". The label below is a great example. Some people might not understand that corn syrup and HFCS are just another way of saying"sugar", and so "sugar" is actually the second ingredient in this product.


5) Use red labeling and the word “high” when a product has more than 20 percent of the daily recommendation for fats, sugars, sodium or cholesterol.

My Thoughts: This is by far my favorite recommendation. This would even help me! When is 5% good and when is it bad? Which nutrients should I look to see if there is at least 20% DV or less? Does anyone else get confused about the percent daily value (DV)? This would make life so much easier. Why didn't they think of it before??

6) Make it clear which sugars are added to the product versus those that occur naturally.

My thoughts:
For those who really watch their sugar sources this could be helpful. This is also good for dairy products, and juices. Looking at the kefir label below, it may be unclear for some people where the sugar comes from, but in fact it occurs naturally in the milk that is used to make the kefir. It's in the form of the disaccharide lactose (glucose and galactose). Looking at the ingredient list, however, you really can't tell where this 8 grams of sugar came from! It's confusing.


6) Display prominently the percentage of whole grains contained in a product.

My thoughts: This is another one that I find incredibly important! They say we should all be making at least half of our grains "whole", but we never even know what percentage of whole grains our products contain. How are we supposed to make half our grains whole? When I'm buying cereal, or telling clients what to look for when buying cereal, I'd love for them to look for a whole grain percentage, rather than having to decipher all this junk.


7) List caffeine content.

My thoughts: Can I tell you something? They don't even list the caffeine content on my Maxwell House coffee!! I had to do some research and sort of deduce a guess for the amount of caffeine I have been consuming each day. For all I know, I'm way off! This would be so nice, and about 100 years too late.

Question: Which changes would you make?

I would change the trans fat law, which says if a product contains less than .05 grams of trans fat per serving, it can be listed as 0 grams trans fat! That's ridiculous. Nick and I were eating that Cool Whip (label above) by the spoon full, until I noticed it had hydrogenated vegetable oils! Bummer.

Five RANDOM Things I've Learned This Year
(Continued from previous posts)


Spaghetti squash is the reason I love fall and winter. I can't believe I never used to buy spaghetti squash on a regular basis.

Taking a moment to just relax and breath really helps when I am starting to get stressed.

Drinking my water threw a straw everyday was not the best idea. It was causing me to take in way too much air, and thus I was uncomfortable.

The lotion in the green bottle from Garnier Fructise causes me to breakout, MAJORLY.

Update
This weekend has gone by just as fast as the week, which means I'm super behind on what I wanted to accomplish! Today I'm doing some baking and tons of errand running (isn't that what Sundays are for?!). Stay tuned for my next post, which will showcase my new breakfast of champions, and provide some hints for planning ahead and being healthy at home. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

53 comments :

  1. Oh I LOVE White Chocolate Wonderful too. I can't get enough. I need to order some because I can't find it anywhere here. :)

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  2. I really liked the US labels wen I went to the US a few years ago for the first time since starting to read labels. At that time, the majority of UK food labels had the information available 'per 100g' of product- NO mention of what a serving size was or what it all actually meant. Now most products use a traffic light system which is great- on the front of products are a pie chart broken down into calorie, fat grams, sodium and sugar with red = high/not healthy levels for the serving size, orange = okay-ish, kind of on the high side and green = healthy/reasonable. I think some merging of the two ideas would be great.

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  3. Oh I think this is great! I would also add putting nutrition info on alcoholic beverages (bottles of wine, etc). I think people forget about those because they're not there!

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  4. I stumbled upon your blog through someone else's today... What a neat post! I like the idea of using red labeling as well. Sometimes the labels can be hard to read. It seems like it all runs together and is hard to find what you are really looking for. I really agree with adding nutrition labels on alcoholic beverages. I'm really surprised they are still getting away without one! Who knows what you are drinking!

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  5. This is funny you should ask what changes you would make. This is a question in the course I teach and the students need to ask. Some ideas are really good and some seem overzealous, like may just confuse anyone not interested in nutrition. Some people really can;t understand some things already, so i think improving this is better than just flooding them with more information. Until we have success with the basics, I think some things may go over many peoples heads.

    Thanks for noticing the pic of Ryan, as you are right, this is the first one I have of us on there. I always ask before putting pics of others up and I just never bothered with asking him out of respect for his personal privacy. But I did think the pic was cute so he approved.

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  6. I really like the changes that are being highlighted here. It has taken me almost 3 years to really learn how to read the current labels and these changes will help many who don't want to spend that kind of time learning to decode current changes.

    I also agree with your thoughts on the trans-fat laws. I would even go further and ban them all together in our foods like some other countries have done.

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  7. I like these changes and think they'd make a difference. Now we just need to get people to read the food labels!

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  8. I totally agree with all the thoughts you shared on the changes. It sounds like the nutrition label would be getting quite a make-over on a lot of more "crazy" products! It's hard to tell how effective it is without an actual example, but everything does sound necessary and great for the general public! I'm almost afraid to see all the different kinds of sugars listed under one heading on some of the products I eat! hahaha

    Thank you for this post Gina!! teehee and it's so funny both our Nick's have such sweet teeth! :P

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  9. i did read this post actually :) woo hoo! haha great review of it though! like SUCH a great review :) i agree with so many of your points but i think in general people need to be more educated on HOW to read labels and that they should! just changing the appearance of them in my opinion isn't going to make the people who aren't reading them read them. it's just going to make it easier for people who are interested but those people are reading them regardless! just my opinin :)

    looking forward to tomorrow's breaaaaaaakfasssssssst

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  10. I actually did see that NY times post, and I LOVE these ideas! I'm particularly a fan of the sugar idea, because so many people are unaware that while sugar may not always be the first ingredient, there's usually a slew of other sugar ingredients hidden under alias names.
    I really like all of the ideas though and hope they pass!

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  11. Thanks for the post. It was defiantly a good read. I like all the new changes. The change to the nutritional info label is long overdue.

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  12. great post- very informative! the new changes are pretty good for society i think. & my boyfirend is also obsessed w/ white chocolate wonderful!! haha

    xoox
    shelley

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  13. thats awesome :) I think its great how they would be changing the lable. To make it easier for us to understand whats GOOD and whats BAD.

    WCW=yummmm

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  14. Great post! I like all those suggestions, especially writing the ingredients in regular writing, they really do all run together!

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  15. I really like all those ideas! They all make tons of sense. One thing that really bugs me about labels and packaging is the "trans-fat free" label, yet the product still contains partially hydrogenated oils. Or "healthy" products that contain HFCS. Or products that say "wheat" or make it out to sound it's whole grain, but the first listed ingredient is just "wheat" or "enriched wheat" which isn't WHOLE wheat flour.

    Okay - enough of my venting! ;-) haha

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  16. I love this post! Thank you for getting the information out there in a digestible way :)

    I would also ask that HFCS be bold as well, but I bet the corn lobbyists would knock that down before it ever happened!

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  17. Gina, as you seem quite knowledgeable regarding all matter of food-related subjects, I have one rather profound question in my opinion) for you: Considering that over the past 30 years or so the number of professionals who deal in health-oriented professions (such as yourself) has increased exponentially in concert with our exposure to nutrition facts (e.g., witness fast-food chains' relatively recent reporting of their meals' nutritional information), why do we, as a nation, continue to live unhealthy lifestyles and gain exorbitant amounts of weight in the process? Wouldn't you think that an influx of health professionals and an enhanced access to nutrition information would help alleviate some of the impacts associated with our pervasive obesity epidemic? Sorry for the length of this question, it's just that this issue has really bothered me over the past several years. Thanks for your consideration.

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  18. I love all your posts. I learn so much. I havent seen that blog post yet from the New York Times so that was really cool. Im glad that they are making some changes to food labeling. Personally Im hyper aware of it and read every label a bit too meticulously but most people arent. I know my sister was shocked when she thought her Apple juice bottle was only 150 calories and came to realize that was for only 1 serving. (and there were 3 in that bottle!) So I think its a great idea to redo the labeling. I do think people should eat processed foods at a minimum but for the times that you do, having a clearly laid out nutrtional profile would be great. Thanks so much for discussing this!

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  19. Gina! You're awesome, I adore this post. Everyone should read the above.

    I could NOT agree more with you about the trans fat crap. And I will call it crap because it is! My patients have so much trouble comprehending how a label on the front can say "trans fat free" when in fact, it is not! It simply contains 0.5 grams or less. They're like "Oh, cool, that's not a lot." Darn, too bad we don't want ANY of that stuff, preferably.

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of putting "high" and red fonts on the certain components with more than 20% the DRI.

    The ingredient list thing I don't really think is that important, HOWEVER, I do feel that listing the allergy-sensitive ingredients separately would be enormously helpful!

    I honestly haven't had time to look into the labeling changes that may be made so I really appreciate your overview. I REEEEEEEEALLY hope these changes are made!!

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  20. Great, informative post, Gina!! Im looking forward to reading about your "breakfast of champions"!!

    Also, thanks for your sweet comment on my current post.. yup, the papa was pretty proud..lol. Have a good night!!

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  21. Wow, I love these ideas for new labels. I feel like I have become an expert on reading labels, but for people who have not there has GOT to be an easier way. I can't believe that about trans fats, they should have to list ANY period. As someone who has to watch for particular ingredients I would LOVE if allergens were listed separately. I've seen that become a little more regular lately but requiring it would be awesome!

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  22. yep!! i live in columbus like you :) but i go to school in madison wisconsin

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  23. great post Gina I am so with you on the trans fat issue

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  24. Those are all great suggestions for food labels. I would love to be able to tell if a product has hidden "wheat" in it.

    I am partial to the Dark Chocolate Dream myself :)

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  25. I was so excited when I read that New York Times post! I totally agree about the trans fat law.

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  26. Interesting! I like the percentage of whole grain thing. I like when chocolate says the % of cocoa (or is it chocolate? you know what i mean), so this is like the same thing. I think they also should re-look at some serving sizes...I know we Americans eat too much too often, but some serving sizes are just ridiculous and therefore the calorie count is misleading.

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  27. Wow, id love to know all the nutrition labels on caffiene content!! i cant believe some coffees dont even talk about their caffiene on their labels! I know starbucks coffee has more than most caffiene.

    hahah AMEN about white chocolate wonderful..isnt it SO addicting?! for real! i also loveeee DCD!

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  28. I think I esp love the fact that they are putting those people with allergies into consideration. I don't have an allergy myself, but I know many ppl who do, and some have it deadly.

    I have a random question though: why the increase in allergies? Was this a prevalent thing since the ancient times except those people just died or got sick "mysteriously" or is it a "fad" or is it something to do with the way we are eating right now?

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  29. I love all of your ideas. I wish I would have noticed serving sizes back in the day. I used to eat 3-4 servings of things like mac & cheese, crackers, chips...etc. And never realized until I got a food scale that I was overeating!

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  30. I really like these changes, specially 4-6! I think they're specially useful for people who's not very into nutrition in general and can benefit from simple labels.

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  31. Oh the food for thought on this post!

    There's a lot to fit on the side of the box isn't there?

    There's a lot I ignore on the side of the box...I rarely pay attention to potassium, or the daily recommended vitamin percentages...I figure I can get most of the good stuff I need from whole foods (fruits/veggies/fish) that don't have packaging that has all of the nutritional facts plastered on them anyway.

    There's an idea in itself...less processed food! That would solve a lot of these issues! But, until then, I think you should be on the panel for change!

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  32. Great post! I think it would be great if they listed if a product was vegan or vegetarian in addition to the allergens. I find the DV table to be extremely confusing too. I hardly look at it since it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I am excited to see the changes they make.

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  33. Great post as always, Gina!

    I have not been a huge fan of the current food label. I do not like the %DV at all.

    My thought is the simpler the better. Most people want to know the basics. I look forward to seeing some changes, though.

    Have a great week, Gina!

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  34. Labels should be reworked so we can understand what we are actually eating.

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  35. I LOVE the idea of the red lettering, natural vs. added sugars, and the percentages. I hope that this label makeover comes to Canada, too!!

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  36. This is very exciting!! All of these changes are great ideas!

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  37. wow, great post! many things about the food labels should and I bet will change in the near future, for sure the serving size and calorie should be bold, like you said 150 is not a lot of calories but in 7 chips, well then it is alot when most of us can eat a whole bag! HFCS should certainly be in RED and bold, so we can see it! I think it is super important that those with allergies can easily navigate their way through the ingredient list so they know if it is 'ok' to eat

    I totally agree that processed foods should be eaten minimally, but the fact is that people will never stop eating chips and cookies out of a box, so teh easier to navigate the ingredients the better, so they can really see what they are putting in their bodies!

    cant wait for your next posts!!

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  38. Great info! Thanks for sharing. And I like your takes on it!

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  39. Wow that is great news! I hope all those changes get made--that would be amazing, and might shine a light on some food companies' bad practices. I hope it has a ripple effect!

    Was just reading your thoughts on clean eating and I found that interesting. Didn't take the time to check out the discussion in the comments, but I'd be curious to know how many people considered themselves clean eaters before reading that! I know I did, but by no means would I exclude something because it was dressed in olive oil or honey or whathaveyou. I do make an effort not to purchase items that contain ingredients I consider unhealthy, but if someone served me a food that contained one of those ingredients, either in person or at a restaurant, it wouldn't particularly stress me out. I really try to be in the moment where culinary experiences are concerned, and I think I can afford to be, considering how well I feed myself (which is what happens most of the time anyway). So I don't think I will let those strict guidelines ruffle me too much. I am still a clean eater in philosophy!

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  40. I love the post! I think it would be awesome if they changed labels. All of the recommendations would be helpful. However, for those of us who currently know how to read them, like we're fluent in another language, it might be hard to adjust to some of the changes. Hopefully it'd be one step to a healthier country!

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  41. Great post! I think all of these points would be so helpful! People never think to check serving sizes like you said and do not realize they are eating 2 or 3 times as many calories! Maybe this would help the people who have no knowledge of food labels.

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  42. I think this would be great! hopefully people will pay attention if and when they make these changes =)

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  43. I agree with you that the %DV is confusing. I will usually not focus on that when going through food labels. If we are confused, how is everyone else going to understand.

    I read this article and they showed a pic of the proposed label. It is so much easier to read.
    I think they covered most the things I find confusing on the label. I do also agree with you regarding the trans fat.
    Great post!

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  44. I love this post! As a food label whore- I definitely read the little gritty details, but I know a lot of people don't! Like almost all brands of ketchup contain HFCS, which is disgusting to me! But you'd never know. HFCS is used instead of sugar because its cheaper to make. So frustrating. But I guess we do what we can. :)

    I liked what you said about drinking water with a straw- I'd never thought of that before.

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  45. What a great post! I just found your blog, and I'll definitely have to come back. :-) My name's Gina too!

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  46. I like the improvement that involves putting allergen ingerdients in bold. It is so tedious to try to figure out whether something is safe for me or not.

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  47. The food label updates sound awesome! I vote for all of them, especially your change to the trans fat law! YES!!

    Thank you for your awesome question about Hanukkah vs. Chanukkah! It's actually an interesting situation - because Hebrew has a different alphabet from English, any time Hebrew words, such as "Chanukkah", are written in English, they're just spelled out phonetically, so there's some arbitrary variation depending on who's writing the word at the time, since there's no actual right or wrong spelling, as long as it sounds the same! :-) If only spelling in English were the same way... :-)

    I SO need to try white chocolate wonderful... :-)

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  48. Hi Gina,

    I responded to your question in the comments in my blog. I wasn't sure what would be the best way to answer.

    Hope you have had a good Monday.

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  49. Fab post--as always! I saw this article too and am super excited for the changes! I think they are ALL for the better! Have an awesome week :)

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  50. Perhaps I'm alone on this one, but don't you think all those labelling requirements are almost overkill? I don't know - it just seems like everything needs to be in flashing lights before people take notice - it's not like the information isn't already there. I would bet that if someone really cared about the information, they would take the moment to look at it, even if it's not highlighted in a different colour or different sized font. Don't get me wrong, I want to see information on my food, because I don't want companies to be hiding anything from me, but I think some responsibility has to be put into the consumer's hands as well.

    I think the only thing I would agree on is the labelling of trans fats regardless of the amount. I know here in Canada, our packages list 0.1 if that's what's in there. I don't think we have as many "rounding" rules as you do in the US.

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