A recent study found that 80% of participants wished that food labeling was easier to understand. Moreover, people had a hard time translating abstract nutrition information – like the calories in a chocolate bar – into concrete, real life examples.
For the University of Canterbury study, which included 220 people, muesli and chocolate bars were used to determine how different product labeling affects exercise. Simply labeling the bars with their caloric information was determined to have little or no impact on exercise.
Researchers then converted the calories into their exercise equivalent. The nutrition labels read, “You will need to jog for 40 minutes to burn off the calories in this chocolate bar.” The response was markedly different – and participants’ exercise increased as a result. They were also less likely to eat the chocolate bar in the first place.
While people might not understand 500 calories, a 40 minute jog translates into real life experience. Unfortunately, it’s really an oversimplification. The amount of calories you burn on a 40 minute jog depends on a number of factors, including the speed of that jog and how much the individual weighs. And it still doesn’t tell the full story – like how much fiber, sugar, sodium, fat or saturated fat is in a product. Simply stating an exercise equivalent doesn’t tell you how healthy a product is.
Researchers point to peanut butter as a perfect example. It will take you longer to burn off a tablespoon of peanut butter than jelly – but peanut butter, which is loaded in good fat and nutrients, is much healthier than sugary jam.
It may be a step in the right direction, but there’s still no clear-cut solution to the problem of product labeling.
What do you think? Are you befuddled by product packaging? What would be more helpful? Let me know in the comments below!