Nutrition is a slippery science, full of research that is constantly debunked by more research. We're left largely confused, pondering whether " vitamins are good for you" or "whether eating saturated fat gives you heart disease."
Sam Slover, a graduate student at NYU, tackled the problem by creating Wrap Genius, a nutrition label that can be customized to accommodate anyone’s diet.
"Ideally, I want the label to take into account who is looking at it, and adapt accordingly. We all care about different aspects of food, so a dream label should become personalized to the unique interests, background, and diet of each person," Slover explains. "More realistically, I want the label to make it easy for people to quickly understand the overall nutritional profile of the food. How many good and bad nutrients does the product have? What is its realistic serving size? And just how processed is it?"
Slover's redesign of the nutrition label hinges on three color-coded categories: Quick Facts (in neutral blue), Avoid Too Much (in alert red), and Get Enough (in good-to-go green). By default, Avoid Too Much contains ingredients such as sodium and saturated fat, but it could be easily configured for a diet that’s high in saturated-fats from red meat or coconut oil, or for someone with diabetes, who needs to control sugar intake to the gram.
The label itself is just one part of the greater experience of Wrap Genius, which is full of fantastic ideas. On the down side, I personally find mixing red and green plus up and down arrows for good and bad foods a little confusing. And as long as we’re personalizing the label, why not use more data visualization to really paint a picture of how a 300-calorie ice cream bar will affect my plan for the day?
Slover spent three months tracking his own grocery habits to build his site—counting his purchases of each item, documenting where each food was sourced, and creating a massive database of the 3,548 individual ingredients he purchased within foods over that time.
"On an average store visit, my bag of groceries would include products from 20 different locations, representing more than 10 different countries," Slover says. "Very few were from the New York region where I live. It's amazing how many product locations can be represented in a single bag of groceries."
As of today, Wrap Genius is a proof of concept that you can’t use for your own shopping. Into the future, he hopes to expand the project by crowdsourcing a richer database of ingredients, and allowing users to customize a dietary dashboard for their own use.