The Obesity Crisis: Changes to Food Labels and Recipes

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • There are shake ups going on in the food manufacturing industry.  In response to the burgeoning obesity crisis, changes are coming to food labels and food recipes.  Some changes have been mandated by local/national government, while others appear to be a sincere effort by manufacturers to hear the cries of health experts, who feel that many of the processed food choices that woo kids and adults, have too many suspect ingredients that seem to be contributing to growing waistlines and corrupted palates.


    Nutritional information is popping up on the front of packages.  As a consumer you face daily decisions that often require some rather in depth assessment of packaged foods, before you decide whether or not to buy them.  Rules pertaining to calories, fat, sodium, sugar per serving, actual ingredient evaluation to see if there is hidden trans fat, and all the other assessment tools, can make the shopping experience for healthy foods quite daunting.  So it would seem brilliant to have a system of word alerts on the front of the package, to help you quickly decide to buy or not to buy, from a health or weight loss perspective.  Problem is, there are too wide a range of systems, symbols and ratings in practice, and that lack of uniformity when it comes to assessing packaged foods, makes the job even tougher.  Right now the IOM (Institute of Medicine) is looking at a single system for the front of food packages that will offer "quick assessment of" calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium, because it feels that those elements do correlate dramatically with food-based leading causes of illness and preventable death.  They will continue to evaluate how front-of-package information should be presented, in order to increase the likelihood of consumers noting the information and using it to make smart food decisions.

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    Though I recently wrote about studies presented at the ADA/FNCE 2010 conference with regards to breakfast eating and the correlation that consumption of cereal (sugary and less sweet) has with healthier weights, smaller waistlines, manufacturers are aiming to reduce the amount of sugar in cereals.  A new study reinforces this recipe change because it found that kids who start the day with sugary cereals, are consuming almost twice the sugar they would be eating if they chose healthier options AND incidentally, they would apparently be just as happy with the less sweetened cereals.  The study showed that kids who serve themselves, typically serve 24 grams (96 calories) of sugar in the bowl of cereal they eat (based on the portion of sweetened cereal they serve themselves).  When they were given minimally sweetened cereals, they added some table sugar but ended up overall with far less sugar per bowl served.  And when they were just served less sweet cereals, they were overall apparently just as happy with the taste.  Lower sugar cereal choices include Cheerios, Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes.


    Another caveat was that kids given the lower sugar cereals, added fruit when given the option.  Since the amount of table sugar added to less sweetened cereals still kept the overall sugar intake lower than the amount typically found in fully sweetened cereals, experts feel parents can buy less sweet cereals and then spoon a teaspoon of sweetener on top.  Kids will consume far less sugar that way.  and if they choose fruit to sweeten the experience, then it's a true win for health!!


Published On: January 05, 2011