Damn that nutritional label!

Feb 27, 2014

It was announced today that the nutritional label is going through an overhaul.  Whoo-hoo!!  (I'm being sarcastic.)  While I think some of the proposed changes to the nutritional label are good ones, overall I think it's a half-assed attempt at improving something that definitely needs improving.  

 

The current nutritional label is dumb and here's why:

 

1.  It's based on the idea that everyone should be eating 2,000 calories a day.

2.  There's too much math, and in my experience, PEOPLE HATE MATH.

3.  It's biased.

 

Let's take a quick look at these three reasons:

1.  How many calories should you be eating everyday?  Do you even know?  And if you do know, is it 2,000?  I know that I personally need closer to 3,000 calories per day.  Some of my clients need 1,500; some need closer to 4,000.  So, if YOU need 1,500 calories per day, and the label says you're getting 24% of your daily protein intake, except that's only one serving and the label says there are two servings, but that's based on 2,000 calories per day anyway, then that leads me into #2:

2.  There's too much math!  The percent daily value on the nutritional labels is ridiculous.  First, let me tell you something: PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND PERCENTS!  I taught math for years - trust me, percents were something people either understood or they didn't.  Most of the time, they didn't.   

     Secondly, these percentages are based on 2,000 calories per day.  I've been guiding people nutritionally for close to ten years; I'd say that maybe one out of every ten people I've come across need 2,000 calories per day.  What about the other 90% of people?

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Frying pans are confusing enough - now you want me to understand percents??


3.  The label is biased.  I've been over the 2,000 calories per day bias, but it is also biased in regards to the actual label:

It only lists a few vitamins and minerals and not all of them.  Why?

It lists sugars, but it doesn't list the number of artificial sugars.  

And here's the one that really bothers me:


It lists saturated fat, but what about coconut oil? 


This one bothers me because all of the research points to coconut oil having immense health benefits, and guess what?  Coconut oil is ALL saturated fat.  


But not all saturated fat is the same.  The saturated fat in coconut oil is different than the saturated fat found in processed foods.  Simply put, coconut oil is good for you.


Imagine you had an amazing product that was made with coconut oil.  Your nutritional label (which costs $500, by the way) would say that your product was full of saturated fat.  This would probably turn some people away because so many people are conditioned to think that saturated fat should be avoided.  

 

Some other random things about nutritional labels:

You only need to test your product once.  Ever.  After that, it's merely up to you to use the same formula and ingredients in the same amounts every time.  As long as the FDA or some private party doesn't privately test your product, you could technically put whatever you want in your product.  And if the FDA DOES test your product?  It only needs to come within 20% of what the label states.  So if you claim your product is 500 calories, it could be as high 624 calories and you'd be fine.

 

Also, if your product has .4 grams of trans fat or less, your label can say ZERO grams of trans fat.  Take, for example, some pre-packaged baked good that has 8 servings in it.  Each one of those servings could have .4 grams of trans fat, and the label will say the whole package has ZERO trans fat when it really has 3 grams of trans fat.  If you don't think that's a big deal, you're fooling yourself.

 

The solution to all of this: learn about how the body works and know what YOUR body needs in terms of calories and nutrients.  Don't rely on a nutritional label because they're just plain dumb.  


 


 

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