Can Food Labels with Exercise Equivalents Help Americans Eat Healthier?

April 22, 2016 | By | Comments (0)

Obesity is an epidemic with rates that are rising world-wide. Nearly three-fourths of U.S. adults and over two-thirds of United Kingdom adults are overweight or obese. As governments work to try and find a solution that results in healthier citizens, the U.K.’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has proposed that we go back to one of the most basic forms of communication: pictures.

Source: Eater

Source: Eater

In January, the RSPH proposed a new labeling system that would show images conveying how much exercise would be needed to burn off the calories contained within food products.

Nutrition labels can be tricky (and overwhelming) to even the most informed consumer, let alone someone with less education or nutrition literacy. Since pictures are universal, the concept behind the new labels is that anyone can easily see the image and ask the question “Is it worth it to run for 25 minutes to burn off this blueberry muffin?”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this concept, with studies showing children are more likely to choose healthy food labeled with a “happy” when given the choice between that and “unhappy” junk food. This idea has a lot of backing, with two-thirds of the those surveyed in the U.K. supporting new labels and half saying it would help them make better food and exercise choices.

The visual labels are not without their flaws and critics, of course. One main problem is that each person’s body (and their metabolism) is different. What may be required by a teenage boy to burn off a slice of pizza could be drastically different from a woman in her mid-50’s. Other issues brought up include that it puts too much of an emphasis on over-exercising instead of choosing a healthy diet and that the visual labels may cause anxiety to those with eating disorders.

While definitely not a perfect label (nobody has found that yet) the visual guidance may be the extra push some consumers need to choose something that takes 10 minutes to walk off versus an hour.

We want your opinion: Do you think that America should consider labels like this? And would visual representations on packages help you make healthier choices?

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