It’s easy to fall into traps when you’re shopping the local supermarket. Food labels trick you into buying them with big, catchy phrases like “low-fat” and “healthy." But the real information about the food, listed on the nutrition panel, is hidden on the back, printed in small type, and often unclear (like when you think a package is snack-sized, but it actually packs two or three servings).
A new type of label might just clear up the confusion, at least that’s part of the thinking behind a British initiative from the Royal Society for Public Health that proposes adding “active equivalent” values onto packaging. Essentially, the labels will translate that somewhat unclear calorie count into minutes of exercise you’ll have to do to burn it off. That helping of Lay’s potato chips becomes walking at a brisk pace for 38 minutes instead of just 160 calories (for a woman who weighs 150 pounds).
But we can’t help but wonder if this new type of label isn’t a double-edged sword. While they might make it easier to think twice about those checkout aisle impulse buys—like the Reese’s that always seem to be calling--in the short-term and, therefore, lose weight in the long-term, they could potentially cause a lot of food guilt and fixation on calories. It’s a wait-and-see whether these new labels will actually be rolled out, but for now we think it’s important to remember that calories are just one component of food and that sometimes “high-calorie” means “high-nutrition,” like in the case of fat-burning foods like avocado.
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