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Food for Thought: Rethinking Our Nutritional Facts

A proposal to help Americans make better eating choices.

Food for Thought: Rethinking Our Nutritional Facts

It was in 1994 that, under the provisions of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, all food companies were required by law to begin using the Nutrition Facts label. By today's wireless, hybrid, organic, GPS-enabled, touch-sensitive consumer product standards, would anyone argue that a 16-year-old anything isn't practically and hopelessly fossilized?

The current Nutrition Facts label was originally based on Recommended Dietary Allowances dating from 1968(!)—a time when low- or fat-free foods still only numbered in the dozens—and has remained unchanged for 16 years.

Given the advances in nutritional science and its ensuing impact on the American public's diet, as well as the continuing efforts of both the U.S. Department of Health, the FDA and food companies to help consumers make better/healthier eating decisions, isn't it time to bring the Nutrition Label into a new light—a cleaner, more concise and informative light?

As a passive observer/consumer, I have followed the unending gyrations of the FDA as it grapples with how to develop a new labeling system for both the front and back panels of packages. As a designer, I believe it shouldn't be that difficult to create a simple, unbiased and meaningful solution—one that doesn't require consumers to bring a magnifying glass and calculator with them when they go food shopping.?? I'd like to offer the following prototypes to the FDA. They take the current thinking for nutritional labeling to the next level and show how information design can work effectively to help consumers make better and healthier choices.

The Information Hierarchy: The first thing consumers should look at is the serving size/serving per container, as they are the true indicators of how much a consumer should be eating. (Click any image to view it larger)

Language Simplification: Use meaningful/simplified language such as, "Control" (Portion Control, Calorie Control, Target Control) to empower consumers to take charge of their health.

Graphic Details: Use colorful icons that provide clear, easy communication, as well as a legible, contemporary font.

Good Stuff vs. Bad Stuff: Separate nutrients into "More of These" (with a plus sign) and "Less of These" (with a minus sign). It helps distinguish the good stuff from the bad and reinforces the notion of less versus more.

Phone app and website: Taking this a step further, consumers would be well served to locate a Nutrition Facts app and website that can be accessed through their cell phones to help them make smart nutrition decisions. It's just what the doctor ordered.