What Would You Change In Food Labeling?

Fitness Forum:

Editor’s note: In our Food for Thought column in May, we asked readers what changes they would like to see emerge from the overhaul of the FDA nutrition label. A few readers shared their thoughts:

I like the [FDA’s] proposed food label. It is easier to read and I feel that the bold lettering of some of the [% Daily Value amounts] really helps to make them stand out. I for one would be more likely to read the label because the information is so clearly stated.

Jodi Dragseth
Owner, JJ’s Bodyshop Inc.
Crookston, Minnesota

I would lobby for a change to show how much sugar should be in (or not be in) a user’s daily value percentage. It seems that, as a nation, we tend to consume too much sugar; it would be a nice guideline if consumers had a value to refer to versus just having sugar listed in grams. A personal training client asked me if 20 grams of sugar in her yogurt was a high amount of sugar. I think there’s a need for this recommendation so that people have a guideline.

Laura Kiesling
Personal Trainer and Manager, Anytime Fitness
Nevada, Iowa

I would standardize the means of identifying food allergens by using the traffic-light system for each allergen (peanuts, lactose, gluten, etc.): red = contains that allergen; yellow = made in a factory containing that allergen; green = all safe!

Diane G. Swanson
San Antonio

As a registered dietitian, I use the food label often in my teaching. I always tell my patients to ignore the % Daily Value column because that information only applies to those who should be eating 2,000 calories per day, which certainly not everyone needs. For most people, thinking in terms of percentages of nutrients is a rather difficult task. It would be a shame for this data to take up such a big part of the [proposed] label as it appears to do, when it is meaningless to most people!

Christine Scott, MS, RD, EP

Consultant Dietitian for the Visiting Nurse Association of Somerset Hills
Basking Ridge, New Jersey

When Poor Food Choices Are Dictated by Mood

Editor’s note: In our Food for Thought column in June, we asked readers to provide suggestions on how they help clients to combat bad food choices or poor emotional eating decisions. Here are two readers’ responses:

Ninety percent of my clients are emotional eaters. The six most common food-provoking emotions are anxiety, anger, boredom, happiness, loneliness and depression. The first step to changing this is awareness. I developed an easy but effective way to overcome emotional eating in my book, The Food Is My Friend Diet. It’s called “Keep it R.E.A.L.”

Recognize the emotion and the trigger. Keep a journal. Are you stressed? Bored? Do you turn to bread?

Express the emotion starting with, “I feel . . .” Suppressing the emotion guarantees overeating. Let it out!

Accept the emotion. We are human and can’t feel fantastic all of the time. Food doesn’t solve problems. It can make you feel worse over time, especially if you are gaining weight.

Love yourself. Tell yourself what you need. It may not make the problem go away, but you will feel better.

I had a client who was gaining weight but who swore to me that she didn’t eat for [emotional reasons]. Two weeks later, she called to tell me that she had moved and had noticed that she was stress eating. Emotional eating can be sneaky—especially if you have been doing it for a long time.

Many emotional eaters forget to listen to their hunger cues. It’s important to eat only when hungry. Do not eat if you are not hungry. I have noticed that everyone eats for different reasons. Some people eat to soothe their anger. When lonely, some people eat to fill a void. Keep in mind that emotional eating is not a problem unless it adds excess weight.

Ruth Frechman, MA, RDN
Owner, On the Weigh Past National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Burbank, California

My daughter struggles with this issue. She turns to food both when she’s feeling bad and when she feels she deserves a reward because something good has happened in her life. I tell her, as well as my clients, that instead of comforting or rewarding yourself with food, make a list of nonfood behaviors you can turn to in these situations. For example,

  • buy a fun, new nail polish and give yourself a pedicure;
  • choose a new book or magazine to read;
  • treat yourself to a new top;
  • walk or run in a different or more scenic place;
  • call someone who will keep you accountable;
  • listen to some good dance music and rock out; or
  • do something fun to keep your hands active (such as knitting, sketching, or playing an instrument).

We all struggle with making healthy food choices at times, and our moods are definitely at the forefront of those decisions. But perhaps having alternate choices at the ready will help turn those bad choices into good ones.