Ahhh…1990s Friends, ER, and the sitcom Ellen, hit the airwaves. Ace of Base had three of the top 10 singles! (Who knew!) The decade brought us Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction, Forest Gump, Titanic and the Lion King. And who can forget the scenes from OJ Simpson’s white bronco chase through Orange County in 1994?
Since then, our taste for music has changed, we’ve seen our friends come and go, and OJ, and unbelievably, we’re still talking about OJ. But you know what else has changed and we need to be talking about? Science!
Back in the ‘90s, we were a fat phobic nation. Studies suggested that low fat diets were key for managing health and weight. In an effort to help regulate nutrition labeling on foods, the FDA introduced the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act in 1990. With this law, we got the nutrition facts panel, which groups nutrients according to those to limit (total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium) and those to encourage (fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron).
With this ruling also came regulations around health claims, including mentions of “excellent source of name your nutrient” on package, as well as specific mandates around using the term healthy. And since evidence pointed to the benefits of low fat diets, the term was structured around low fat foods, in addition to other measures, like low saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
As I’ve said, we’ve come a long way since then. We now recognize the importance of healthy fats in the diet from nutritious foods like avocados, nuts, olive oil, and salmon. We also know that while it’s possible to build a nutritious, plant-forward low fat menu, adopting a low fat diet often leads to replacing fats with not-so-healthy carbohydrates—namely refined foods (white bread, crackers, cereals, as well as sugary foods).
And one thing all health professionals agree on is that we need to reduce the added sugar in our diets—something that is suspiciously missing from the FDA’s current definition of healthy. Of course that’s because it’s actually not so current.
The bottom line is that for food manufacturers, healthy, is a marketing term but one that should be clearly defined to help steer shoppers toward better-for-you foods, lest a sugary breakfast cereal or less than stellar cookie be described as healthy.
While I’m on the subject, natural, deserves a mention—and a definition. At this point, the phrase doesn’t mean what shoppers think it means. According to a 2015 Consumer Reports survey, the majority of shoppers think foods smacked with the word natural implies that they’re grown without pesticides, don’t contain artificial ingredients, and are GMO-free. News flash: It only indicates that meat and poultry are made without artificial ingredients or colors, and that they are minimally processed. Nothing else.
My hope is that an updated nutrition facts panel and regulations around nutrition and health claims will reflect up-to-date science. And what does the science show about those healthier foods—whether indicated on the label or not? They include those that offer fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and quality proteins, whether from plants, antibiotic-free meats, or dairy. They do not include piles of sodium or sugar, or artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. At Luvo, we rest on these pillars of sound nutrition and it’s more than a marketing ploy. It’s a passion to make it easier for people to eat better every day.
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