FLOTUS Michelle Obama unveiled a new plan on Thurs., Feb. 27, to make people eat healthier: bigger fonts on nutrition food labels. But if consumers weren't reading the old nutrition labels, making the font bigger is no different than making legalese bigger on contracts. And when was the last time you read terms and conditions for important accounts, such as 401(k) and checking account statements?
In a culture that has to force people to not text while driving and who readily lines up for smartphones and e-books, small text hasn't stopped Americans from reading. The bigger obstacle is making them interested enough in wanting to read the labels in the first place. Learning how to read a nutrition label or free nutrition courses may be more productive than doubling the size of a calorie count. And for those people who don't quite understand why saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, added sugar, vitamin D, potassium, calcium, iron and fiber matter, reading the numbers probably won't make much of a difference.
Some weight loss programs are a waste of money and lead to false hopes. Consumers pop pills, eat dried fruit for a month or workout nonstop until they hiss at health clubs, but weight loss programs, such as Weight Watchers, actually teach them the basics of serving sizes and how to break down ingredients in addition to encouraging fitness.
Weight Watchers Point Plus programs focus on fat, carbs, fiber and protein instead of calorie counting and still manage to help loyal users lose about two pounds per week or maintain their weight based on a suggested goal. And while there may be cheating here and there, as long as they stay within their point range, eating healthier is still an option. Even if a consumer leaves the program, by the time she's gone she already knows exactly what's on a nutrition label, how to count it and what is actually happening with weight loss and weight gain. And if she's kept a nutrition diary and tends to eat the same foods on a regular basis, keeping track of points is easy to do without the monthly membership.
Reading nutrition labels can indeed help with processed foods, especially when it's more difficult to figure out what's in those frozen boxes and divvy it up. But without knowledge of what a consumer is reading and why serving size matters, to people who don't know how to read a nutrition label, it's still just a bunch of numbers that end up in the trash.
NPR Radio guesstimates the new labels will release in approximately two years. NPR.org guesstimates a few years.
* Full disclosure: The Chicago Diet and Exercise Examiner Shamontiel is not an employer of or receiving any compensation for mentioning the Weight Watchers program. She was a member for four months during a trial in 2012 and lost 35 pounds within the same year. Since then, she's kept a nutrition diary and written everything she eats in it every day, plus counts points. This entry is not meant to be promotional. Shamontiel thought reading nutrition labels was a waste of time before 2012. This entry is just a suggestion for a nutrition program that actually teaches consumers how to read nutrition labels and lose weight.
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