A half cup of ice cream

Who eats a half cup of ice cream?

Let’s face it. We live in a nation of obesity, chronic disease, and countless health problems. In fact, two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. Think about that: every two out of three people struggle with their weight, which can lead to obesity-related diseases and health implications that cause clinic and hospital visits for which health insurance must pay. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it was estimated in 2008 that obesity costs the United States $147 billion (CDC). That is a lot of money! That money could be used for education, infrastructure, housing, defense, and the list goes on. The point is that the U.S. has become unhealthy.

Times are changingIMG_4451

Times are changing, habits are changing and people are eating too much.  I’ve heard talk of a ‘fat tax’.  Personally, I don’t believe punishing taxes affect behavior. Take cigarettes for example—there is a huge tax on them…..yet people who want to smoke still are willing to pay the penalty. No, rather than a ‘fat tax’, what we need to do is fix the underlying cause of obesity and unhealthy food choices. Perhaps we should be given a more accurate representation of what we are eating and change the current FDA’s standard of food labels.

Current food labeling requirements are over twenty years old

The current food label standards on packages are over twenty years old, so it’s about time they are “revamped”. Michelle Obama introduced a new food label in February, 2014 under the Food and Drug Administration that proposed several new changes to the current label. Such changes could be beneficial to the United States and those concerned with their health.

The immediate changes:

LABEL_REVISIONS_FINAL4_no_captions

Image courtesy FDA.gov

  • An increased font size and bold-faced text of the calories
  • The number of servings is bolded
  • Added sugars
  • Vitamin D percentage
  • No more calories from fat
  • Different serving sizes

So, why is this information beneficial? The increased text size attracts buyers eyes immediately so they can see how many calories they are consuming and the number of servings per container of a product. However, the most interesting change, to me, is that the FDA is requiring an added sugars column to food labels. Something the United States does not typically realize is that we are addicted to sugar. Next time you are at the store, pick up a food item, and look at the nutrition label. It will most likely have some type of sugar in the ingredients list. I’ve noticed that sugar is added to almost every food or beverage item in the grocery store! Including added sugars on label could push food producers  to decrease the amount of sugars in their products, very much the way trans-fats have been reduced in processed foods when the FDA required they be labeled a few years ago.

Serving sizes are huge!

icecream pintAnother interesting aspect to the new proposed food label is the change in serving sizes. The FDA’s goal is to create serving sizes that depict the amount of food an average person would actually eat. Take this ice cream as an example. A serving size is ½ cup, and there are four servings to this pint of ice cream. First I measured out four servings, as directed by the original nutrition label. However, most people do not eat just a half cup of ice cream– I know I don’t!IMG_4481

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, I dished up new servings showing what a normal person actually eats. This illustrates what the new FDA labels would reflect:

Serving Size: 1 cupIMG_4487
Servings per container: 2
Calories: 600
Total fat: 36 g
Sat. Fat: 20 g
Total Carb: 62 g

Now, I know that 600 calories is a lot, but this is a good example because it shows how many calories people are eating at one time when they grab a pint of ice cream. The new food label will make it more convenient for consumers to count their daily caloric intake, and perhaps even help them realize they are eating too much. Once they realize that they just inhaled 600 calories and 36 grams of fat from ice cream, maybe next time they actually will choose to eat just a half  cup of ice cream.

Amypicmonkey2Amy Mueller is a Senior at Wayzata High School and is a guest writer in today’s blog post as part of her final, year-long project for Economics and Applied Public Policy and Social Science Analysis.

Dedicated to Mr. Goodrich

Comments

  1. Michelle Obama’s reform sounds like a good solution. If nutrition labels are easier to read, more people will start paying attention to them. Great article Amy!

  2. I think that adding the ‘Added sugars’ and improving the serving sizes would be really beneficial! But I don’t really get the suggestion to take off the calories from fat because I think they should be kept. The U.S. really needs to start doing something about obesity and this is a really great article!

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