Nutritional labels are on just about everything you buy! Many packaged fruits and veggies even contain these labels, which are there to help the consumer understand what they’re eating. But so many of us don’t really look beyond the basic information. We look at the calories and think, “Oh, that’s not so many”. But if we were to evaluate how much work it takes to burn those calories, we might think twice before eating!
The UK’s Royal Society for Public Health is considering adding something new to their labels: the amount of time it would take to burn off calories.
Take, for example, a chocolate bar. Your average full-size Snickers bar contains roughly 240 calories. That may not sound like a lot, but when you realize how much work it will take to burn off, you’ll definitely reconsider. To burn those 240 calories, you will need to walk for 40 minutes or run for 20. That’s a lot of time and effort invested just to burn off the calories you’d get from a single candy bar. Imagine how much more work it would be to burn off a bag of chips, a sleeve of cookies, or a pair of donuts!
Well, that’s the whole point of the idea. While consumers do understand the caloric value of foods–thanks to the nutritional facts on the food labels–they may not understand what those numbers mean. Most of us look at the number “200 calories” and think, “That’s not so much”, but what we don’t realize is that 200 calories takes a lot of work for our bodies to burn.
You see, the human body is designed to produce as much energy as your body needs. If you lead an active life, your body will produce more energy. If you, like so many others, work at a desk for eight hours a day, your sedentary lifestyle will cause your body to produce far less energy. This means you will burn fewer calories every day.
The average person burns from 1800 to 2200 calories (depending on size, gender, and activity level). The brain uses roughly 20% of your daily caloric intake, and your heart burns a few hundred calories every day just to keep beating. Between your internal organs, your digestive system, and the basic movement that you need to get around every day, you burn the rest.
But what if you consume more than you use? Well, that’s when your body stores the energy as fat. Eating more than you burn is the reason so many people in the Western world are overweight. A high-calorie, low-exercise diet is the primary contributor to the weight loss problems in the U.S., Britain, Europe, and Australia.
This proposed addition to the food labels could be the key to helping consumers be more mindful of what they eat. If they realize that they’ll have to run for 30 to 40 minutes just to burn off a food item they’re eating, they may think twice before opening that wrapper and putting it in their mouths.
The truth is that most of the nutritional information on your food labels is largely ignored. A lot of people don’t really think about how many grams of fiber or how much Vitamin C they’re getting–all they know is that they want to eat a tasty food. They care about the calories, but don’t think about the overall nutrition. This is a problem that definitely needs to be dealt with, but perhaps a good first step will be making it clear just how much effort it will take to burn the food you eat!