September 24, 2007
With the goal of creating a healthier generation which is
taking responsibility for its own healthy eating choices,
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with the
Cartoon Network in order to help children learn how to read
"Nutrition experts and the Food and Drug Administration ...
advocate teaching children to read food labels themselves
instead of relying on mom and dad. ... 'Since I find
parents are not doing a bang-up job (teaching nutrition), I
think it's important to empower the children with their own
information,' said Miami registered dietitian Ronni Litz
Julien. The FDA partnered with the Cartoon Network earlier
this year  to launch a public education campaign
encouraging children ages 9 to 13 -- or tweens -- to read
the nutrition facts on food labels. ... 'We learned that
tweens are able to cognitively understand food labels,
they're making food choices on their own, they want
independence, yet they're still influenced by their
parents,' said Carrie Ainsworth, education outreach
specialist for the FDA. The agency will launch a campaign
for parents next year reinforcing the same message, she
By starting with tweens, the FDA is hoping to help a new
generation grow to be healthier teens and adults.
"Spot the Block is an educational campaign launched by FDA
and the Time Warner Cartoon Network to encourage 'tweens'
(youth ages 9 to 13) to look for (spot) and use the
Nutrition Facts (the block) to make healthy food choices.
In this way, the two organizations hope to prevent
overweight and obesity in the early years, which can
ultimately help young people stay healthy and prevent
health problems in adulthood. ... Major elements of the
Spot the Block campaign respond to one of nine
priorities--nutrition--identified by the Department of
Health and Human Services for transforming America's health
care system. The elements are based on recommendations from
both the FDA's Obesity Working Group and the federal
government's 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The
dietary guidelines contain science-based advice designed to
help Americans choose diets that meet nutritional
requirements without exceeding caloric needs. In addition,
the guidelines promote health, support active lives, and
reduce the risk of chronic disease. The Spot-the-Block
theme for tweens is 'get your food facts first.' This
message encourages kids to read and think about food facts
before deciding what to eat."
To see the Cartoon Network's site which tells its audience:
"Before you feed, you need the facts," you can visit
The FDA offers a site to help people understand the
nutrition labels on food, as well. This site does include
graphics to make the content more clear, but no cartoons
characters or games to join the reader as they learn the
"People look at food labels for different reasons. But
whatever the reason, many consumers would like to know how
to use this information more effectively and easily. The
following label-building skills are intended to make it
easier for you to use nutrition labels to make quick,
informed food choices that contribute to a healthy diet.
However the material is presented, the goals are still to
inform consumers (whatever their age) so that they can
understand the various aspects of the food labels and make
educated decisions about what they eat.
When reading labels, it is important to look at the big
picture. Just looking at one or two aspects of the label
can only give part of the story.
"Here are some tips to help you get the big picture on food
- Serving Size
Always start with the serving size amount. That's because
all the information on the rest of the label -- from
calories to vitamins -- is based on that amount. ... The
label will also list how many servings are in the package.
Even things that seem like they'd be a single serving, such
as a bottle of juice or packet of chips, may contain more
than one serving. ...
A calorie is a way to measure how much energy a food
provides to your body. The number on the food label shows
how many calories are in one serving of that food. ...
- Percent Daily Value
These percentages show the amounts of nutrients an average
person will get from eating one serving of that food...
...Although eating too much fat can lead to obesity and
health problems, our bodies do need some fat every day. ...
Some fats are better than others. ...
...The liver manufactures most of the cholesterol a person
needs, but cholesterol is also found in the foods we eat.
Sodium is a component of salt. ... Small amounts of sodium
keep proper body fluid balance. Sodium also helps the body
transmit electrical signals through nerves. But too much
sodium can increase water retention and blood pressure in
people who are sensitive to it.
- Total Carbohydrate
This amount covers several types of carbohydrates,
including fiber and sugar....
... If the body doesn't get enough fat and carbohydrates,
it can use protein for energy. So be sure the foods you eat
give you some protein.
- Vitamins and Minerals
It goes without saying that you want to choose foods that
are high in a variety of vitamins and minerals. ... Some
vitamins -- like vitamin C -- are water soluble, which
means that the body can't store them so they need to be
Questions of the Week:
How often do you use the nutrition labels on foods to help
you make decisions about what you will eat? How often do
you think your peers and family members look to this
information when making decisions about what they will eat?
What aspects of food labels can be confusing for some
people? What do you think would help your peers and family
members (young and old) better understand this information?
Once they understand the information, what factors do you
think will influence how they use it? What factors play a
role in when and how you use the information you can find
on the food nutrition labels? What would help you use this
information to make better food choices?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum