February 3rd, 2011

Nutrition Keys: Will They Really Help Us Make Better Food Choices?

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Nutrition Keys will soon appear on the front of Food Packaging

Say hello to ‘Nutrition Keys’.  The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute unveiled the industry’s voluntary Nutrition Keys that will display calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar content per serving on the front of food packaging.  Some packages will also contain additional information known as “nutrients to encourage” such as potassium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, iron and protein.

The rational behind the new labels stems from a push from First Lady, Michele Obama, as part of her initiative to solve childhood obesity.  The new labels are meant to give consumers a quick and easy reference to nutritional information and encourage healthier food choices.

Although voluntary, most companies have jumped on-board and will begin to add the Nutrition Keys within the next few months, but will also keep in place the required black and white nutritional information box usually found on the back of the packaging.

Will the Nutrition Key initiative really help with food choices?


  • Nutrition Keys don’t really provide us with new information.  The mandated nutrition box on the back of the product already has this information plus much more.
  • The new labeling is a bit condescending towards the consumer.  Are we as consumers too lazy to flip the product over and look at all the nutritional information.
  • When I decide whether or not to purchase a product I need to have all the information in one spot: ingredients and all the nutritional information.  The Nutrition Keys don’t give us the full picture.  Dr. David Katz gave a great example: “Diet soda has no calories, no sodium, no sugar, and no saturated fat, so by the Nutrition Keys criteria, it would look like a perfect food. Does anybody believe it is?”
  • I am undecided as to whether or not consumers will pay attention to this new form of labeling-or just ignore it. I guess only time will tell…..


  • If you’ve had a chance to check out The  Nutrition Keys, the print is much larger than the nutrition box.  Since I am constantly squinting to read the fine print in the nutrition box, the large print is a small plus.
  • This is the first time we have seen negative information about a product front and center on a product-usually it is hidden away on the back.

My advice

Continue to flip your products over and real the FULL version of nutritional information. This is the only way to make an educated decision about your food choices. It can be confusing-but have no fear there is an app to help you sort through it all- Fooducate.

Looking for more information? Healthy Child Healthy World has some great tips on how to avoid the food label lies.

What are your thoughts on this new labeling? Do you think Nutrition Keys will help in the fight against childhood obesity?  Will they help you make better food choices?

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9 Responses to “Nutrition Keys: Will They Really Help Us Make Better Food Choices?”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by K Meyer, Lori Popkewitz Alper. Lori Popkewitz Alper said: Read my new post on Nutrition Keys: Will They Really Help Us Make Better Food Choices? http://t.co/CrT4HNZ […]

  2. This isn’t new info, as you say Lori. Seems sort of like a waste of time, but I do see the larger print advantage! I guess for those that do not flip the box, it might be a wake up call – let’s hope so. I think I’d rather see the number of unpronouceable ingredients in the product and how many ingredients total. More than 10 total and I’m passing.

  3. Eh. The food that’s really good for you (fresh, whole, unprocessed) doesn’t come with any labels at all. Instead of trying to redesign labels and re-educate people on how to read them, I think we should just focus on eating, well, real food.

  4. I agree-nothing beats fresh, whole, unprocessed food. I too wish that the focus was on learning about locally grown food-without labels, additives and processing. Where to begin with this one?

  5. I am researching “nutritional information delivery systems” for class at Evergreen State College. My question is how to get info really visible while the main media is driven by the agribiz that nakes a lot of $ off processed ‘food stuffs” that are more problematical than the fats and sugars. The USA is a schizo nation; our taxes subsidize the junk food industry (hidden in Farm Bill) while we watch our health fall apart. This conflict of interest is bigger than big print

  6. That seems to be the 20 million dollar question Deborah. There are so many processed “foods” out there that are well funded and marketed to the consumer. I agree, this is a huge problem with no simple answer. I am curious to see what you find after you have done your research. Thanks so much for your comment.

  7. Well, I guess it’s something. I don’t think it will change much for me — I’ll still be scrutinizing ingredient lists, but for those who haven’t paid too much attention to nutrition info (after all, it has been pretty easy to ignore), perhaps they’ll start paying a little more attention.

  8. I agree Betsy-it’s a little something, but if it helps those who don’t want to scrutinize labels then I’m OK with that.

  9. […] from Groovy Green Livin also shares labeling tips about Nutrition Keys.  Thank you to our Healthy Child Network for these wonderful articles. Interested in joining […]

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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