FDA woes

With all of this snow, I’ve definitely caught up on reading, just not writing yet. But I’m getting there… I promise.

There was an article in the NYTimes last week that caught my attention. While I had drafted commentary to it, there was still something nagging me about why I didn’t really like this article, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I thought what the FDA wants to do (which I’ll get into in a minute) is silly and stupid, but why? Well let’s discuss…

In this article, the FDA is saying they want manufacturers to put the calorie counts and nutritional information on the front of food packages. Why? Because with this whole “let’s fix the obesity problem” bandwagon, they want to give consumers a jolt of reality and for them to understand that their portions might actually be more than one serving size.

My initial reaction to that idea was that nutritional information is already on the package on the side. If people aren’t looking for this information in the first place, that’s not the government’s fault. They either don’t want to know or they don’t care. You can’t force people to care about something.

They may also have trouble seeing it, where it usually appears in small type in the Nutrition Facts panel on food packages. In surveys conducted by the foundation, many more people say they look at the calorie number than at the serving size on which it is based.

Maybe this is my own political belief, but the government isn’t here to save us from ourselves. If you can’t  see the label or understand the label, we need to do more nutrition education and consumer education than proposing this new idea.

Next, for anyone who’s into nutrition or health, we’re aware of portion sizes. Some are small (like for packaged foods) and some can be quite large and satisfying (think fruit, veggies and grains). So what does this tell us? If you limit your packaged food consumption, you can eat a larger, satisfying portion and not worry about the guilt. You can’t tell me how great that sounds.

And if manufacturers increasingly push key nutrition facts to the front of packages — as many have begun doing — the confusion could be magnified. Rather than helping fight obesity, it may simply add to the perplexity over what makes a healthful diet.

I thought this was an interesting statement too. Some people who haven’t want to or had to learn about nutrition might not completely understand labels. There’s many things to consider. Of course there’s the calorie count and fat grams, but where are the the sources of fat? How much fiber? How much protein? How much of the other vitamins like A, C, D, B12?

Take peanut butter. At first glance, it looks like a “bad” food. The serving size is 2 tablespoons (and it’s easy to go over if you’re in love with it as I am!) and it’s high in calories at about 100 calories per tablespoon. The fat grams are high too and I know that while almost everyone who’s had an eating problem as banned peanut butter (or any nut butter for that matter) at one point because of these facts, once they start to get healthier, they always add it back and it becomes a favorite food. Why?

While the fat grams are high, they come from a good source. Not a fatty animal fat, but an oil-based fat from the nuts. Not only that, the fat and the protein (about 7 grams per serving) keep you satisfied for a long time and keep the munchies away. Also, the sugar count is low so while it has a few carbs, this food will not spike sugar and personally is wonderful on sweet, juicy apples or grapes 😉

Now I get the natural peanut butter with nothing in the ingredient list but peanuts, maybe salt and sometime palm oil. Some people don’t like that you have to stir it, but I’ll give you a secret: if you stir it once and then put in t in the fridge or upside down in your pantry, you won’t have to majorly stir it again. Keeping the ingredient list small and simple is a guaranteed way to ensure your packaged foods are healthy.

Standard serving sizes were created by the F.D.A. in the early 1990s, partly to make it easier to compare the nutritional values of different products. Congress required that the serving sizes match what people actually ate. To determine that, the F.D.A. evaluated data from surveys of Americans’ eating habits taken in the 1970s and 1980s.

The F.D.A. has vowed to re-evaluate serving sizes before. Amid concern over obesity, it said in 2005 that it was considering changes. That effort languished, but has now been revived by the Obama administration.

This could be a good idea, but at the same time our portion sizes have grown in the last few decades so changing them to how the average person eats might not help us as a population.

I personally don’t look at portion sizes a lot and I’ll tell you why. One, I ate a lot of fruit and veggies which are both good for you and fill you up before you can really overeat them. Two, I’m more of an intuitive eater which is that I eat until I’m satisfied, not full, not stuffed, just satisfied. Now this second habit comes from practice and well-being so I can see how portion sizes could help someone who’s learning to listen to their hunger signals.

But as I stated before, if we move further away from packaged foods and revamp our food system in that way, I feel like the FDA wouldn’t have to worry about these things. Maybe I just don’t trust the government that much, but I feel like the more they try to regulate, the more we’re going to be stuck into a big business, packaged food system when we need to focus for on fruits, veggies and grains. Now I know that that many in the FDA used to work for meat packers and factory farms which is obviously a conflict of interest, but maybe that needs to be revamped more than our nutrition labels.

What do you think of this new idea? Do you focus primarily on labels and serving sizes?

I loved this comment. I thought it said exactly what I feel and how I live to eat GOOD food.


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