Study Shows That Activity-Equivalent Calorie Labels Could Improve Public Health
It’s a simple means of making the calories relatable to people’s everyday lives.
A calorie is a pretty abstract idea. Scientifically, it’s “the approximate amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere.” Most people know you should consume only about 2,000 of them a day, although far too many of us exceed the recommendation. That’s why a new study from the Royal Society for Public Health in the U.K. suggests that by switching to activity-equivalent calorie labels, people will better understand what they’re eating.
This simple labeling system shows people that to burn off a 171-calorie bag of potato chips, it will take 19 minutes of running, 23 minutes of cycling, or 13 minutes of swimming. For many, the sticker shock on their favorite foods could make them think twice. “Although nutritional information provided on food and drink packaging has improved, it is evident that it isn’t working as well as it could to support the public in making healthy choices,” said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the independent British organization. “Activity-equivalent calorie labeling provides a simple means of making the calories contained within food and drink more relatable to people’s everyday lives while also gently reminding consumers of the need to maintain active lifestyles and a healthy weight.”
A survey conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health found that “almost two-thirds (63%) of people would support the introduction of activity-equivalent calorie labeling.” It also found that “over half (53%) of people would positively change their behavior after viewing front-of-pack activity-equivalent calorie labeling.” The research shows that the average consumer spends only six seconds looking at the label on a food package before purchase. So this easy-to-understand graphic would be more persuasive than the numeric information on current labels.