The nutrition facts label and the recommended dietary allowance labels are extremely beneficial. The problem is, especially in this community, they do not accurately represent modern understanding of health (300g of carbs with at least 24 being Fiber per day?).
So my challenege to the community. If we could re-invent the Nutrition Facts Label. What would you include? What would be the exceedances? Let's stick to the 2000 kCal/day model for the purposes of normalization.
I'll throw out my initial thoughts -- 20% Carbs, 30% Protein, 50% Fat -- That would put us at:
100g Carbs/ day 150g Protein/ day 112g Fat/ day
In my opinion, the US nutritional label needs a few adjustments.
First of all, the "serving size" should be replaced with a set number. In Norway, where I'm from, nutritional information is always listed as per 100g. It's a good choice, because all numbers then represent percentages. If a food has 20g fat listed, you instantly know the food is 20% fat. It also limits the cheating manufacturers can do, such as listing < 0.5 g of trans fat as 0 g trans fat, a trick they can easily perform by controlling serving sizes.
Next, list mono and polyunsaturated fats in addition to the saturated and trans. Ideally, split into o3/o6 as well. It'd also be nice if sugar was split into sucrose/glucose/fructose/others also. (Getting a little crowded now, though.)
Finally, as OP said, fix the RDA amounts. Although I find that less important than just having the information available.
I'm sure there's more that could be done as well, but that's what I've been thinking of mostly.
I'd prefer there be no nutrition facts labels, after all I prefer not to eat out of a box, can or bag!
But to answer the question, it gets confusing fast, because there are things you want to limit (trans fats, fructose), and things you'll want to maximize (vitamins, minerals). Others that most people would likely want to moderate (fats, starch, protein).
Percentages don't work well.
Here in the UK some food manufacturers have a traffic light system on their food packaging (e.g. http://www.j-sainsbury.co.uk/responsibility/case-studies/archive/assault-on-salts/) - green for low/healthy, red for high/high probabilty of death on consumption.
While I don't agree with the nutritional science these recommendations are based on, I think the idea of something quick and visual on the packaging is a good one as most people don't bother or have the time to scrutinise the labels.
I'd support nutition data per 100g/ml alongside data per 'average serving' (although this wouldn't suit everyone), with some quick visual indicator to show whether the level of the 'nutrient' was relatively low, or high. I realise this could be seen as pretty arbitrary but I think having both figures and the info in simple layman's terms would cater for those who take a real interest in what they buy as well as those people who just give labels a cursory skim before they buy a product.
It's not ideal, but I don't think you could find a system that would suit everyone. I'm ambivalent about including percentages of daily intake as people's needs vary so greatly.
I think the main problem with current food labelling, especially labels which indicate how 'healthy' a foodstuff is, is that the nutritional science it's based on is so shaky. The food labels in my local supermarket make it look like you can live forever if you eat enough low fat soya oil spread but you'll keel over from instant arteriosclerosis if you go within twenty paces of a beef steak. It's madness.
I agree that the label is not the best method, but I don't think doing a 20% carb, 30% protein, 50% recommendation would help, although that is pretty close to my own needs at more like 3000 kcal per day. Less active people might need less carbs and protein, more active my need more carbs, some people do well on almost no carbs, and some people do well on lots of carbs. Now with fat, not all fat is equal, so if people started getting 50% of their calories from fat, but most is from trans or even seed oils, then that would be awful. What we need is just an accurate breakdown of what is in a product, and stop the inaccurate information about what we need. Besides if we are buying healthy food, it seldom comes with a nutrition label anyway. When I buy broccoli or bison, no label on it, because it has one ingredient.
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