Irrelevant Nutrition Facts

Posted on November 25, 2014


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By: Shea McCord

Have you ever found yourself questioning the nutrition facts on your food item or beverage? I have. I’ve found myself asking questions such as, “What are these numbers? What do these percentages mean? Why do these percentages always seem to say zero or two percent?” By no means am I a health freak. I eat a Texas Toast burger at Huey’s at least once a week, but I do like to consider myself at least somewhat conscious of what goes into my body and how it affects me.  However, the only portion of the nutrition facts I am able to understand is the calories because those appear to be plain and simple. However, the rest of the label is measured in grams, a unit of measurement I am unfamiliar with, and other strange terms.

The problem with serving sizes is that “official serving sizes are supposed to reflect what people actually eat, but they are based on what Americans typically consumed in the 1970’s.” Nowadays, people eat larger portions than they did during the 1970’s, and this becomes problematic for people like me who only look at the calories when looking at the nutrition facts.  How are we supposed to know how healthy the food we are consuming is if we eat a larger portions than the serving size recommends?  We will not know how many extra nutrients are in the extra food that we consume unless we are good at math and take the time to sit down and figure out the proportions.  I’m fairly decent at math, so naturally I’ve tried to do this a few times.  Generally, it starts when I want eight pizza rolls; I do not think I am asking for too much when I ask for eight pizza rolls.  Why is the serving size six?  I do not know, but I can tell you that nobody is full after six pizza rolls.  So I try to justify eating two extras, but I am only left with frustration over why I decided it was necessary to do math in order to eat.

Not only are the calories on food labels becoming irrelevant because they do not represent the amount of food Americans are eating in today’s society, but the rest of the nutrition facts “can border on meaningless for many consumers.”  The nutrition facts are impossible to understand because they are measured in grams.  If no one is familiar with grams, then how are consumers expected to understand nutrition facts?  Dr. Nestle suggests using “common kitchen measurements, like teaspoons of sugar in a serving rather than grams.”  If the nutrition facts are changed from grams to teaspoons, consumers are more likely to understand how healthy the product is because they can recognize how much of each nutrient is in the product.  Consumers are more likely to recognize the healthy products when the nutrients are measured in teaspoons because when the nutrients are measured in grams, the consumer is left to approximate how many grams would be considered unhealthy.  Or in the worse case scenario, people like me see will see grams and think, “I don’t know what that means,” and just ignore the nutrition facts altogether because they do not understand them. 

Therefore, nutrition facts ought to change so that Americans can make a move towards improving their health.  If serving sizes are not representative of how much people eat nowadays, how are people supposed to know how unhealthy the food they are eating actually is?  And how are people supposed to understand how unhealthy the food is if they cannot understand how the nutrients are measured?     

Brody, Jane E. “Revised Food Labels Still Won’t Tell Whole Story.” Well Revised Food Labels Still Wont Tell Whole Story Comments. N.p., 26 Oct. 2014. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.

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Posted in: Health