I wrote a blog two months ago called, “Defining your life with numbers.” It discussed how some people focus on numbers all day regarding their weight and how many calories, fat grams, carbs, etc., of what they are eating. I explained how detrimental this can be and how much it fuels an eating disorder. This month I am writing about a campaign started by the FDA that is aimed at teaching kids how to read nutrition labels on food.
“Read the label” is a youth outreach campaign started back in 2007 by the FDA. The campaign encourages kids ages 9-13 to learn how to read nutrition labels and use the label as an “everyday tool for making smart and healthful food choices.” The goal is to “teach” kids about nutrition and understanding what they are eating. Despite any good intention on the part of the FDA, the only thing this campaign might do is teach kids how to calorie count at an early age. Children will learn about numbers but not about how to have well-balanced meals. They will learn how many calories they are eating in a day but not about what foods their bodies need and why.
This kind of campaign will teach children the wrong way to look at nutrition facts. Kids may start to fixate on the numbers and we all know the slippery slope between counting calories and developing disordered eating. If we are going to start any type of campaign regarding nutrition it would be best to educate children on the food groups – why your body needs all different types of food and how to get balanced meals in your diet. Focusing on numbers will only teach children to obsess about food, not learn to eat intuitively and following their own hunger cues. Let’s try to teach children the right kind of relationship to have with food, not a relationship defined by numbers.
For more information on this campaign you can visit the website at http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm281746.htm