Marty’s Corner: Using the Food Label as a Teaching Tool
There’s been a lot in the news lately about sodium intake and its relationship to health and, in particular, blood pressure. While we know that some individuals are more sodium-sensitive than others, we also know that the sodium intake of the average American is well over the recommended amount, which, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-20201, is 2300 milligrams per day. For decades, the food label has been a source of information about the nutrients in a food product, and its latest redesign has the intent of making it even easier for the consumer to understand and to use as a guide in making wise food choices.
Hospital foodservice departments are jumping on this bandwagon by making changes to offer their customers healthier options. While we all know that “fried chicken day” might still be very popular at some facilities, foodservice directors and hospital administrators understand the role that they have in not only helping patients to get well, but ensuring that visiting family members, as well as hospital employees, have plenty of optimal choices available when it comes to food.
In a study by Lindeman et al2, a “stealth strategy” was applied to help reduce sodium intake in a hospital cafeteria. Foods that had high-volume sales were identified and ingredients were altered to lower the item’s sodium content (with the “stealth” part being that customers were unaware of the changes). Customers continued to purchase the items which were now lower-sodium, with overall dollar sales of most stealth item categories increasing during the study period.
The use of labeling in hospital foodservice, especially with grab-and-go items, is becoming more and more the norm. Labeling software that integrates with the department’s food and nutrition management software system can extract a recipe’s ingredients, sub-ingredients, and major allergens so that these are properly displayed on the label. Whether it’s helping customers meet the recommendations for maximum daily intake of sodium, or flagging wheat-containing items for those who are gluten sensitive, a food label can serve a positive purpose in providing accurate information that helps our customers make wiser selections.
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/, accessed December 3, 2017.
- Lindeman A, Fougeron M, Vaughn S, et al. Applying stealth strategy in a hospital cafeteria: an effective technique to maximize exposure to lower sodium foods. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016:116(9) Suppl, p. A-11.
Article by: Marty Yadrick, MBI, MS, RDN, FAND - Director of Nutrition Informatics and former President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Fusion, 1st Quarter, 2018