Putting ‘activity’ icons on food products is the ‘burning’ issue in the health news. On the surface, it sounds like a plan! Information is power and it could help us walk away from bad food decisions. At Healthy Food Guide magazine, we occasionally run features on this topic, especially around Easter and Christmas, when many of us make unguarded choices (yes, it takes an hour of vigorous dusting to work off that 175 calorie Creme Egg).
But do we really need to clutter labels with even more detail? No! What we need is to regroup around the clear and easy-to-decode traffic lights on packs – that’s the simple red, amber and green system. Not all manufacturers have adopted this yet.
Let’s steer clear of mixed messages. So it’s OK to eat three chocolate bars if we have the time to run off the calories? Or should we be doing without that wholesome bowl of porridge if we don’t? There’s no healthy, well balanced diet message there. Personally, every time I eat a two-finger KitKat, I don’t want to be reminded that I’d need to walk for 30 min. There lies madness. Most of our lives are busy and stressful enough without these guilt ‘trips’.
We need to go back to basics. An active woman needs around 2,000 calories a day (men up to 500 more) to function. To lose 1lb a week, calorie intake needs to be around 1,500. Clearly, the quarter of the UK population who are obese have not grasped even this simple concept.
Ultimately, we know we shouldn’t be eating that giant chocolate muffin mid-morning or that sugar-sweetened cola to beat an afternoon slump. Health bodies need to get the healthy eating message out there, including the daily proportions of the food groups mapped out in the new Eat Well plan. Highlighting activity levels on pack is a fun diversion, but let’s just leave it at that.