In the car, i usually listen to NPR (or sometimes classical music if i want to calm my mood). On the way to work, KQED Forum was doing a discussion about obesity and food regulations. The woman from the FDA, Barbara Schneeman, was unbelievably annoying. She failed to answer even a single question, just blathering on about how great and effective the FDA's activities were.
One of the big things the FDA is planning to do is to change the recommended format of the "Nutrition Facts" label. I have long felt that the whole "serving size" and "number of servings" thing is arbitrary and pointlessly obfuscatory. No one has time to pull out a calculator, compute the ratio between the serving size and the amount they actually ate, and multiply by the calories per serving to calculate how many calories were actually consumed. Happily, the FDA will be asking food producers to indicate the total number of calories in the container. I laud this move, but my reaction is also an exasperated "Duhhhh... it's about time!"
The label on the box of Raisin Bran in front of me has over 30 lines of text and over 50 numbers on it. If i cared about my diet, which luckily i don't, would i know how many calories i ate this morning? None of those numbers represents the total number of calories in the box. I think that single number, in bold, would be more effective than the entire label as it stands. Sure, the other information is also helpful, but it shouldn't drown out the calorie value the way it does now.
A few good suggestions were made by the panelists and callers. Soft drinks are a big problem in schools — a pediatrician reported regularly talking to high school students that were consuming 1000 or 1500 calories per day in soft drinks alone. Food companies have managed to perpetrate, or at least amplify, the assumption that there is such a thing as food "for kids", and somehow everybody thinks it's okay for kids to eat bad stuff and healthy food is only for grownups.
The best idea i heard: just print in bold on the container how long it will take you to exercise off the calories you just ate. Brilliant! That caller deserves an award. Perhaps trickier in practice than in theory, but the concept is great.
All the participants recognized that the problem isn't solvable by a single measure. There are so many contributing factors: sedentary lifestyle, nutritional education, poor availability of healthy food, fast food culture, and more.