Monday, May 05, 2014

Daily dairy diary

Screenshot nicked from O2
The Goat decided last July that fattening himself up on the run-up to Eid may have career-limiting consequences, and he at last resolved to lose some weight. His chosen strategy first involved diet and gym, followed by a much cheaper version of the same: diet and bicycle around the streets of Mirdif. Now that summer is fast approaching, it’s diet. The bicycle will re-emerge when it’s possible to ride one without melting.

The diet is an apparent success. All the Goat does is keeps a diary of calories consumed, and he endeavours to keep the total below 2,000kcal per day. This is obviously not always possible when posh dinners out get added to the mix, but the Goat has managed to keep his weekly total below 12,000kcal except when he was in Scandinavia last summer. Most weeks, it’s below 10,000kcal. And, surprise surprise, the weight falls off. The Goat has lost over 14kg in ten months by merely being aware of the number of calories he puts into his mouth.

The food-and-drink diary is most effective. It develops a clearer understanding of how many calories are in a particular food, but doesn’t actually put on any restrictions on what the Goat can eat. He will choose tomatoes rather than Pringles, toast rather than fried bread, and Guinness rather than lager. These are all the lower-calorie options. Strawberries, incidentally, have the same calorific value as tomatoes. It’s the sugar and cream that does the damage. Accurately estimation of foods’ calorific values has become easier with practice, but the Goat still has occasion to refers to the nutrition information on the packet.

Which, at last, brings the Goat to the point of this essay. How the nutrition information can be horribly misleading.

It’s fair enough to tell the consumer that one serving of Sky Flakes is three biscuits and has 120kcal, because no-one who hasn’t got a severe attack of the munchies is going to eat an entire kilo of Sky Flakes in one sitting. And an Almarai Fresh Cream 100g tub is listed at 320kcal per 100g. One tub; presumably one serving. The Goat has to hand a 35g packet of Ready-to-Eat Barbecue Flavor Chicharrito in Delicious Bite Sizes. Servings per container: 1. Calories per serving: 210kcal. So far so good.

Now look at small tins of California Garden Baked Beans. According to the blurb, one serving size is 150g and contains 150kcal. But the tin contains 220g. What is the Goat supposed to do with the remaining 70g? Share them? Waste them? And Lacnor Essential Orange Juice comes in a 180ml package with one straw, yet the nutrition information says that it contains 40kcal per 100ml. That’s right; the apparently individual package contains nearly two servings!

Final example is Glacéau Vitamin Water. This comes in a 600ml package, and contains 50kcal per serving. But one serving is only 240ml. This so-called energy water has to be shared between three drinkers if the stated calories aren’t to be grossly exceeded.

Here, then, is the problem in summary. If you pick up what looks like an individual single-serving pack, the nutrition information should state what is in that individual single-serving pack. The problem isn’t actually in the labelling, but in the package size. It should be one serving, not an illogical 1.5 servings.


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