So, you’re running late for a class, or for a meeting, and skipped breakfast? Your stomach cries for some food, and you eye that health bar as a quick on-the-go meal. Your hunger is satisfied, and you think you’ve made a healthy choice. But have you?
Health bars often contain lots of nuts. But, here’s the issue, these bars also contain too much fat to meet the Food and Drug Administration’s strict low-fat definition of healthy. So is that really healthy, or with increased amount fats, does the product mean its unhealthy?
To address this common concern, FDA has begun the process of redefining the term “healthy” on food labels. Policymakers are looking for input from food makers, health experts and the public. You can weigh in with your ideas about what factors and criteria shall be used for the new definition.
“As our understanding about nutrition has evolved, we need to make sure the definition for the ‘healthy’ labeling claim stays up to date,” writes Douglas Balentine, who directs the Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
So, how has nutrition science evolved?
Let’s start with fat. Most people thought it was here to stay. But gone is the era of the fat-free fad. “The most recent public health recommendations now focus on type of fat, rather than amount of fat,” Balentine writes in a blog post for the FDA.
For instance, the type of fats found in avocados and nuts are considered healthy fat. We’re encouraged to eat more plant-based fats and omega-3s from fatty fish, whereas the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting saturated fats — the type of fat found in meat and other animal products — to less than 10 percent of your total daily calorie intake.
The modernized definition of “healthy” will also likely address sugar content. The FDA is taking into account all of the newer evidence linking excessive sugar intake to heart disease and obesity.
In an ideal world, people wouldn’t need labels to signal which food choices are healthful. If people consciously want to eat healthfully, we already know how to do that. Hint, it involves eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Also we should limit our consumption of packaged and processed foods.