We have already spoken about ways to make better choices. First we need to understand just what our bodies need to function. As we learned earlier the food pyramid allows for a healthy combination of foods. By working with the pyramid and analyzing what food choices they made students will hopefully choose to make better selections from the food groups. Labels and representations of what is healthy, all natural, fresh, no preservatives added, organic, are confusing and misleading. We are consistently told something is healthy only to have a new study shake our previous beliefs. Just how can students become wise consumers and what are the better choices?
In order for students to learn to be smart consumers they need to be able to read the labels on the foods they eat to see just what they are getting.
Since the Nutrition and Labeling and Education Act of 1990, the Food and Drug Administration, which ensures that the food supply is safe, has required that packaged foods have labels which list the serving size, total calories and calories from fat, a list of nutrients and the Percent Daily Value. The PDV tells the amount of a nutrient in the food based on the daily-required amount for the average 2000-calorie diet. By the end of the day the amount of each nutrient eaten should reach 100%. Foods in small packages or those with limited nutrients may carry a simpler label. Fresh fruits and vegetables, and single ingredient raw meats are not required to carry a label. 31
There are also a few descriptive terms we have become use to seeing on packages that can only be used if the food has those characteristics.
- the food contains none or an insignificant amount of the nutrient
- the food is raw, contains no preservatives, and has not been processed, heated, or frozen.
- food is low in fat and saturated fat and contains no more than 480 milligrams of sodium and 60 milligrams of cholesterol per serving.
- food provides 20 % or more of Daily Value of that nutrient per serving
- used on meats, fish, poultry, and seafood that contains less than 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving.
- food contains 25% less of specified nutrients than a similar specified food, such as pretzels labeled “less fat than potato chips.”
means the food has been altered during processing to contain 1/3 fewer calories or ½ less fat or sodium than the regular product.
means food can be eaten frequently without exceeding the Daily Value guidelines for that nutrient.
means the food contains at least 10% more of the Daily Value of the specified nutrient than does a similar specified food. An example would be grapefruit labeled “more vitamin C than orange juice.”
Good source of
, means a serving has 10 to 19 percent of the Daily Value of a particular nutrient.32
Since the school I presently teach in is in a low-income area not only do most of the schools 600 plus students receive free lunch from the federal lunch program, they also receive free breakfast. I suggest that as the unit begins the teacher and students begin saving labels from breakfast foods, juices, crackers etc,. served at school as well as have the students bring in empty containers from products they eat at home.
This portion of the unit should be very much hands on. Students should have an understanding of what the labels convey and they should do some analysis of the contents of the foods they eat. For instance, our school offers both white and chocolate milk. Students would compare the labels and see the differences in the contents on each label. They would also be asked to compare the amounts of sugar, and fat.
Students should consider food labeling that attempts to convince us that products are healthy. They can also consider if organic products are superior and if their sometimes-higher prices are justified. If possible students would comparison shop for some items and taste test some of the foods. Just what qualifies a food to be labeled organic and how can we know that the labeling is correct.
Students will examine the food pyramid recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Students will look at their food diaries and recognize some area where they could make better choices. It might be cutting back on certain snacks or increasing the amount of milk they drink. They may decide to eat more vegetables or cut back on fast foods.