Since watching the BBC’s 10 Things [...], I’ve been paying more attention to the nutrition labels on the food I eat. Lots of these labels are pretty dull and difficult to understand, and I don’t reckon they have any influence over my diet. Also, I’ve no idea what my GDA of calories, fat, saturates, salt or sugars is, so knowing that something has 2.1g of sugar in it is next to useless.
The better labels show what percentage of my guideline daily amount my sandwiches contribute, because then the numbers begin to mean something to me. I don’t count up the various percentages over my day, but I do look out for things that have massive numbers (like the cheesecake that contributed over 30% to four out of the five categories).
Better still (in my opinion, though it looks like I’m wading into a two year old debate in my cutting-edge way) are the traffic light labels that you sometimes see. Red, amber or green depending (presumably) on how big the contribution is to your GDA. Red means “indulge now and again”, amber means “enjoy most of the time” and green means “go for it!” according to today’s sandwich from Boots. That does help me.
Here’s an idea that might help to engage more people in getting a better idea of how what they eat stacks up. How about printing the nutrition labels onto stickers, so you can peel them off the packet and keep them on a card. Then at the end of the day (if you’ve nothing better to do) you can see how many reds there are compared to the greens and ambers.
Going further – if I was going to bring “persuasive technology” into it, then maybe someone should develop an iPhone application that uses the iPhone’s camera to take a photo of the traffic light label, recognise the colours, and automatically add up the totals for you. It would make it much easier to remember, would allow accurate self-monitoring, and could be a good way to engage some people (London is full of people surgically attached to iPhones) in watching their diet.