Every first lady has had a project during her time in the White House. For Hillary Clinton, it was an attempt at reforming health care. For Laura Bush, it was educational reforms. Michelle Obama is making her mark amongst ranks of first ladies, and she’s doing it through food. More specifically, she’s doing it for the youth of this great country, who are, unfortunately, pretty fat. According to the Center for Disease Control, “childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.” The center continues to note that in 2012, more than one-third of children or adolescents were overweight – which implies any excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors.
As Michelle no doubt understands, obesity is a very large and growing problem. Beyond being an immediate issue, childhood obesity can have effects far later in life. Children who are obese are more likely to be obese later in life, and may have problems with diabetes, stroke, and even cancer, according to the CDC. I applaud the first lady for her attempt to combat childhood obesity.
She’s attempting to do so in some pretty interesting ways. First, she recently debuted what she is calling the “nutrition label of the future.” These labels will feature a new bolded calorie count, to draw attention to the calories that are a major part of the cause of the aforementioned obesity. Not only will the labels feature easier-to-read calorie information, but they will eliminate so many of the questions we usually have when attempting to read nutrition facts – how many of this is in a serving? Mrs. Obama plans to eliminate this confusion, by including the nutrition facts for an entire assumed serving. For example, if you buy a Mountain Dew at Club Red, and it has 37 calories per serving, those may only account for one half of the bottle! Under the first lady’s new plan, the nutrition facts will reflect the calories and sugar in the entire bottle, making it easier to understand how much you’re drinking.
Mrs. Obama is also considering the inclusion of easy-to-read labels, that would make it easy to decide how “good for you” what you’re eating is. She is considering adding stoplight colors to the labels of multiple foods and drinks, with red, yellow, and green reflecting differing levels of healthiness. This is particularly fascinating, since it would make it way easier to make healthy choices.
However, I can think of one very large and influential group that may take issue with this stoplight theme – the food and beverage industry. Imagine being Coca-Cola. You’re worth billions of dollars, you’re a huge success, and you’re about to have the stoplight of bad health stamped on front of your beverage by the first lady. This could represent a very real problem for a very large number of companies worth a very large number of dollars, and likely with an equally large number of lobbyists present in Washington. It’ll be hugely interesting to watch this story unfold, but until then, I’m going to be eating as badly as possible. Because once those stoplights get on my food, I’ll have no choice but to pay attention – what can I say, I’m a law-abiding guy.