Tread Lightly: Walking Distance on Food Labels

About a week ago, my boyfriend sent me an article titled Tread Lightly: Labels That Translate Calories into Walking Distance Could Induce People to Eat Less.

New York City is trying a new way of influencing New Yorkers to make better food choices. How, you ask? They started a campaign in which they show how far you would have to work in order to burn off a certain food you eat. Basically, instead of showing how many calories a hamburger is, for example, they show how far you would have to walk in order to burn off the calories the hamburger contained. This is called physical activity-based calorie labeling.

As a candidate for an MPH in Physical Activity in Public Health, the concept of this excites me. The fact that people are taking even thinking about doing something like this is an encouraging piece of news.  However, I have several mixed feelings about this concept:

  1.  I like the fact that these nutrition labels are linking physical activity and nutrition. A common myth is that people can eat whatever they want as long as they are working out like crazy. 
  2. I never want to encourage people to participate in less physical activity. What do I mean? Well, if someone is choosing between Meal A, which require 3.7 miles of walking after, and Meal B, which requires 1.3 miles of walking after, they are most likely going to choose the 1.3 mile meal. While this is good, as the 1.3 mile meal is probably healthier (hopefully), i feel like that person will now feel that they don’t need to move as much. You still need to move, move, move all throughout the day to prevent yourself from sitting too much, in addition to maintaining good cardiovascular health.
  3. Just because you may “walk your dinner off” by walking the amount of miles that the meal equates to your meal doesn’t erase the fact that what you ate may have had unhealthy ingredients in it, such as trans fats, which can’t just simply be walked off in a mile. They will still have some effect on your body.

Take a look at the article. I would love to hear what you think, or if you’ve heard of or seen this before!

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