Happy new year, everyone!
I will cut to the chase: 2018 sucked in many ways for me and for many others. I don’t like to be negative but I’m just putting it out there because as Socrates says, “An unexamined life is not worth living”. We need to deal with the crap that is presented to us in order to get through it.
One of the areas I am examining is my life is looking at how I eat. I am getting so frustrated with my changing body and all the recommendations out there on how to do better. There’s the intermittent fasting, the vegan lifestyle, the meat heavy paleo lifestyle, the low fat diet, the high fat diet, the no oils diet, etc.
Looking at labels is overwhelming for me and I’m certain that I am not alone in being bewildered at how to proceed. So many cooking personality types are put off by the confusing food labels to even begin to think about cooking from scratch. It is just easier to order in or rely on prepared foods so as not to think about it and add to the stress of our day, even if we have good intentions to provide healthy food for ourselves and our loved ones.
I recently met Dr. Rod Wallace who has an interesting background in technology and he was kind enough to speak on the topic of how foods can be labeled to provide more succinct and easily relatable info on what we ingest. Read below and see what you think.
After you’re done reading, feel free to make this protein packed quinoa dish which I believe is good for us AND delicious.
Food, Technology, and Labeling:
How do we Make Technology Good for Food?
Why does it feel like technology is killing us, or at least our food?
I mean, instead of making a fresh breakfast, I sometimes buy my kids a breakfast sandwich, in all its processed glory. And I feel guilty when I do. We think of such fast food as unhealthful because of all the technology applied to create it.
But take a step back. Technology makes most products better.
What’s different about food? Initiatives to improve healthfulness energized the teams I led in the Fortune 20 food company. We wanted to nourish our families. Why didn’t we do better?
We have a communication problem. We rely on food labels to clearly tell us what’s healthful, but they don’t. We live in a country where ⅓ of college seniors can’t interpret a simple table—yet the Nutrition Facts on my bag of apples has 41 numbers (serving size, fiber, etc.) They say a confused mind takes no action, and we’re bewildered. Many Americans have given up trying to eat healthfully, and confusion is a key factor.
Our labels are also incomplete. Medical Facts Today says an apple is healthful because it provides fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and flavonoids. Most of those factors are not listed on the label. In fact, no label could fully explain how a food impacts the 37 trillion cells in the human body.
Companies must focus on sales. So, with healthfulness only driving sales in a few (labeled) situations, companies focus mainly on cost, look, and taste. The impact is clear:
· A chicken today contains more than twice the fat, a third more calories, and a third less protein than a 1940 chicken (Purvis, 2005).
· Most fruits and vegetables are unlabeled, and thus have less protein, calcium, iron, and riboflavin today than in 1950 (Scheer and Moss, n.d.).
· Even many organic foods are less nutritious than the traditionally farmed foods of the 1950s and 1960s (Plumer, 2015).
A single, structured score that summarized complex information could fix the problem. Suppose we hired a nutritionist to provide a score comparing the healthfulness of different salmon origins. The nutritionist might develop a single, weighted score based on the amount of Omega 3 in the fish (highest in wild-caught), and the amount of antibiotics (higher in Chilean salmon.) The resulting, easily-compared score could help consumers judge whether to pay the premium for wild-caught fish, or opt for cheap Chilean salmon.
As Chilean farmers reduced antibiotics, their score would improve, and more Chilean salmon would sell at a higher price. That promise of a high price would provide a clear incentive to act rapidly. Today, Chilean farmers act only if activists pressure them.
Summarizing health impact simply with Scoring could help improve American health. And food companies could profitably focus their increasingly powerful technology on our health – not just on reducing cost. Everyone would win.
For a free graphic exploring food scores, visit RodWallacePhD.com.