Me, worried? Never.

A random one tonight. So random, the only really suitable category for it is general blogging. Maybe it could squeeze into opinions & thoughts as well.

As I sit down to watch TV as normal programming is resumed after yesterday’s Royal-fest, I’m munching on a bag of ‘jumbo honey roasted cashew nuts & peanuts. Not the healthiest of snacks, I know, but to save me straining my eyes reading exactly how healthy they are on the back of the pack, there’s a nice little pie chart on the front with the quantities of calories, fat, saturated fat, salt and sugars in nice (slightly) easier to read type, with colours appropriate to what proportion of my daily allowances each of these values are.

Looking at this, it seems that in my nuts there are 296 calories, 23.9 grams of fat, 0.63 grams of salt and 6.1 grams of sugar, with all but the last in red segments, thus making all these critical ingredients, their abundance within my nuts, and this abundance in relation to what is allowable to me blatantly apparent. Not quite. Upon closer inspection I see that the aforementioned quantities are for a quarter of a pack.

Wait. What?

Upon detailed examination and using the table on the back, I see that the aforementioned amounts are not only per quarter-pack, but the percentages of daily limits used to colour the pie segments is based on female limits. I’m presuming limits for me would be different.

Now I’m not all that good with spatial awareness, or ‘count the sweets in the jar’ games at the fair, but that’s essentially what I’m being asked to do – guess the number of nuts in the bag to establish what is a quarter of them, and then count them as I eat them.

I don’t actually do this of course, and I suspect many other people don’t either. And this bag of nuts isn’t the only place I’ve seen this arbitrary dividing up of packets. Look on most 500ml soft drink’ bottles. You will find they are divided in half for the purpose of these little pie charts – the quantities listed are under the assumption you’ll drink half on the day of purchase, and save half for another day. Again something that next to nobody actually does, I’m sure.

The pie charts are there because people are, or were, concerned that they didn’t know what they were eating and drinking, particularly with regards to the ‘trendy’ unhealthy ingredients of calories, fat, salt and sugar. So now the majority of the healthy minded public, especially the ones that think that keeping consumption certain numbers low enough will make them lose weight on their own, will be reassured that they’re informed about what they’re eating. But now a whole new problem has arisen, except I don’t think as many people are aware of it.

Let’s take this bag of nuts for example. I’m under no illusions that I’ll only eat a quarter bag in a sitting. Heck, I don’t even know how much a quarter bag is. For the sake of argument I eat the entire bag during a particularly long film. Now lets reassess the ‘trendy’ numbers.I’ll now demonstrate why these figures are rarely based on a whole bag and are often ‘per portion’ or per- some other arbitrary division

Instead of 296 calories or 14.8% of my allowance I have eaten 1184 calories or 59.2% of my daily allowance of energy.

Instead of 6.1g or 6.8% of my allowance I have eaten 24.4g of sugar.

Instead of 23.9g or 34.1% of my allowance I have eaten 95.6g or 136.4% of my daily allowance of fat.

And instead of 0.63g or 10.5% of my allowance I have eaten 2.52g or 42% of my daily allowance of salt.

I’m just thankful I’m not one of those people that simplifies their health to four or five numbers, otherwise I might be worried.


About Jack
A small-time traveller in a big-time world

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