On a road trip recently, I bought a medium-sized bag of chips to share with my sister when we stopped to refuel. It was about twice the size of the little bags you pack for a lunch.
We shared the chips while driving, and after the bag was emptied, I was folding it up to dispose of it when I glanced at the label. Number of servings: 3.5. Seriously?? We were supposed to share that with 1½ other people? Instead of being an adequate, albeit unhealthy, snack, it would have been just enough of a taste to miff everyone. That kind of silliness is everywhere on packaged foods, presumably so manufacturers can “trick” us into thinking we’re consuming fewer calories than we really are. (And by the way, I’d love to meet the three skinny friends you’re sharing your pint of ice cream with. Yeah. That’s what I thought.)
Luckily, some folks with our government have actually done something smart for a change and are releasing new proposed guidelines for nutrition labels, just in time for National Nutrition Month in March. The new labels prominently display the number of servings per container, which are supposed to be based more on realistic adult consumption rather than supermodel or toddler diets. They also have larger, bolder numbers for calorie counts and let us know when there are added sugars. You can get a gander at the new label here on the FDA’s website.
The Food and Drug Administration is calling the new labels a “reality check,” noting that serving sizes have changed in the 20 years since the labels were last altered. And it is also hoping to encourage more nutritional awareness as we as a nation try to slim down and battle the deadly disease of obesity.
Arguably, that would mean avoiding pre-packaged foods altogether and adopting a whole foods diet. There’s no question we’d all be healthier by doing that. But in the real world, most of us are living grab-and-go lives that are going to incorporate processed foods in some quantity. I’m glad these new labels are going to let us be a little more honest with ourselves about what we’re really consuming, so we can make smarter choices (most of the time).
And I’m glad I don’t have to share my Heath Bar Crunch with three friends. Because that was never going to happen, people. Get your own.