Monday, March 15, 2010

Sick of Deciphering Nutrition Labels? Stop!

Just a warning here - I have my megaphone out and I am stepping onto the soapbox.

It's no secret that the United States has a bit of a weight problem. Over a third of our population is categorized as obese, and leading trends show that statistic destined to grow over the coming years. While we are a society obsessed with diets, exercise, and body image, its obvious that our methods for achieving our ideals are flawed:

  • Diets sabotage us.
  • Guaranteed-results workouts require actual work and discipline.
  • Reese's Peanut Butter eggs now look like this:
So it may seem like great news that such notable people as Michelle Obama, our Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, and the CEOs of food manufacturing companies are jumping on the healthy-eating bandwagon, calling for not only more truth in advertising but actually changing the way food is mass-produced to include healthier ingredients. So why do I feel so cynical about it?
I mean, hearing our First Lady tell the bigwigs at Kraft that, "we need you not to just tweak around the edges but entirely rethink the products you are offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children," should be a good thing. And it is. The aggressive marketing of crap to kids is not a new concept, but is getting out of control. Its reassuring to read articles such as this, which point to the potential changes in food labeling that may help educate Americans about the food they are buying.
I guess I could say that I understand how families are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to convenience food, but I would be lying. I just don't think it is unreasonable to think that instead of perusing the grocery store aisles trying to translate the nutrition label or list of ingredients on a food package, they may push their buggy out of the marketing section of the store and into the part that has actual food.
Here are some examples of food if you aren't familiar:

I have a quick and simple solution to the confusion that Americans are facing when it comes to reading nutritional lables and lists of ingredients: don't do it. Instead, eat food that doesn't have any mystery about it at all - fruits, vegetables, chicken, turkey, fish, and whole grains. Get a breadmaker; it takes less time to throw together a loaf of bread and set a timer than it does to sign up for Weight Watchers.

A co-worker recently stopped me in the hall at work and vented about being so confused about whether to eat low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie, which foods had "good" fat and which ones had high-fructose corn syrup, etc. She was a mess; she was so confused and overwhelmed that I could tell she was going to ditch the whole idea and go back to eating mindlessly. I remember being that way, and I remember realizing that I could save myself a lot of headaches if I would just eat fresh food straight from the earth. I don't mess with nutrition labels because I have no need for them.

I do realize that most of the people in our country are more concerned with the short-term flavor of a food than the long-term effects of it on their bodies, and that a majority of Americans feel downright entitled to eating junk because they feel they've earned it by working hard. I personally don't understand that logic but I recognize that it exists.

I guess I am just on my soapbox today to say something really simple - if reading nutritional labels and lists of ingredients makes your head hurt, stop doing it. Eat food that doesn't come vacuum sealed.

Done. :)


E. Peterman said...

Yeah, the whole convenience thing was my excuse for a while, too. But we have this thing called a freezer if I want to make some healthful pancakes ahead of time. Buying fresh produce does mean a few more grocery store stops during the week, but most people with kids are in Publix pretty frequently to begin with.

Tiffany said...

I couldn't agree with you more!!