Be honest, do you read nutrition labels? I have to admit I read them more and more in a quest for better health. I try to pay attention to sodium, sugar, fat and calories and I’m especially focused on the ingredient list. These labels hold the key to the ingredients within the foods we eat and are often more telling of the quality of food than the often confusing nutrition facts.
As Americans we don’t follow the metric system, so understanding the number of grams of various elements in our food can prove difficult; for some it can make the information downright useless. To make that label even more relevant, there is a petition circulating at Change.org requesting that the FDA add the number of teaspoons of sugar to the “per serving” section on nutrition labels. They currently have 117 of 18,000 desired signatures.
Implementing this idea can help greatly with understanding just how much sugar is in the foods you are considering. Added sugar is one of many catalysts in the current levels of obesity we see throughout the country.
To see how helpful this change might be, I asked our resident registered dietician Mary Hartley if reflecting sugar measurements in teaspoons would be beneficial. “Yes it would be helpful if added sugar were separated from naturally occurring sugars in fruit, milk and some vegetables,” Mary said. When asked if seeing the sugar content in grams can make a difference in curbing obesity, Mary stated, “Obesity is a multifaceted, complex problem. I would not expect any single intervention to make a big difference, although many small actions do add up. It certainly wouldn’t hurt.”
The petition also requests that the FDA place a nutrition label on the front of food packages that shows the total teaspoons of sugar in an item. This goes along with the Facts Up-Front, Front-of-Pack Labeling Initiative formed by first lady Michelle Obama. Through this initiative, calories, saturated fat, sodium and total sugars would be placed on the front of food packaging. This would make it easier for everyone to be aware of a foods nutritional value, especially when considering that a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that only nine percent of people regularly check calorie counts and less than one percent look at the other information on nutrition labels. This same study showed that people read more when the labels were placed at the center of the package instead of on the sides.
If you are in favor of this initiative to add the teaspoon measurement to nutrition labels and place a label on the front of food packaging, you can sign the petition here. Adding nutrition labels to the front of packages and showing sugar content in teaspoons won’t single-handedly solve the obesity problem, but it is certainly one more step in the right direction.