Last night I had the privilege to chat with dentists Jason and Grant of the Prism Podcast about diabetes, nutrition and pseudoscience, and my favorite gluten free beer (It's Omission by the way). I was asked about my thoughts on the new nutrition label, and I thought I would expand on my thoughts in writing (which has always been my preferred medium of expression over the spoken word anyway).
Currently there are two different label formats that are proposed, as shown in this graphic from the Washington Post:
What I like about the proposed changes to the "new" label:
1) I like to have easy access to basic information about food, and I like for my patients/clients to have the same access. Not everybody is equipped with smart phones to be able to look up information in the grocery store, and not everyone has Internet access at home to make up their grocery list either.
2) I like the bigger print for the serving sizes and calories, particularly since I work with a population that tends to have diminishing eye sight.
3) I like the addition of the mineral "potassium" to the food label. One of the unfortunate consequences of being a diabetes educator is that you wind up working with people who have already developed kidney failure (usually from uncontrolled diabetes, uncontrolled blood pressure, or both)and they have to be cognizant of how much potassium they take in since the kidneys can no longer filter any excess potassium.
4) There has been an effort to make the serving sizes more in line with what
people might actually eat.
What I don't like about the proposed changes/wish they would have done differently:
1) I wish they would leave the percentages off, as I have never found them useful in teaching people how to read a food label. Who wants to calculate a percentage while they are in the grocery store anyway? Many people already don't have a framework for how many calories, carbohydrate grams, etc they should have--and those that do have a framework are going to look at the calories/grams, etc and not look at the percentage.
2) I wish they would do away with the serving sizes and give the information for the entire container. It would remove one more way that food companies can manipulate the serving size to cause a product to look healthier than what it really is, and I think more people would rather adjust for their own serving size.
3) I hope they don't go with proposal 2, as it's a more crowded format, they are still emphasizing saturated fat as a problem (when it's not really) while ignoring the added sugars, and once again I don't think people respond well to being "told" what to do either.
For those of you who are wanting to establish a good framework for how many calories you need, etc, I recommend the use of the Body Weight Simulator as it uses the most up to date info on how much to cut back over time and what to do to maintain your weight. For those of you with diabetes/re-diabetes/insulin resistant conditions who are trying to figure out your carbohydrate intake, your ball park intake will be no more than 100 grams of carbohydrate per day if you are trying to lose weight and no more than 150 grams per day if you are trying to maintain (and that's just ball park, if you have diabetes you will only figure out your optimum intake by testing your blood glucose before and after meals when trying new foods. Try not to aim for more than a 30 mg/dL increase 2 hours after eating).
For other info on label reading and portion control from this blog:
Label reading: Carbohydrate Edition
Grocery Shopping with Radio Lab