Obesity is on the rise. Despite repeated efforts to compel world populations to be physically active and eat a healthier diet, the proportion of children, teenagers and adults who are overweight or obese is rising almost exponentially. Is it possible to reverse the trend?

Colour codes

Since 2013, the United Kingdom has had a “traffic light” colour coding system – green, orange, red – in place on all packaging of processed and prepared foods sold in grocery stores.

Five very visible icons on food packaging provide consumers with the following nutritional information:

  • Calories
  • Sugar
  • Fat
  • Trans fat
  • Salt

By using graphics to display the nutritional values, understanding and remembering the information is faster and easier. Consumers can tell at a glance if their food choices are good or not.

  • Mostly green? Well done!
  • Lots of orange? Might be time to change some habits, try new recipes, and slowly but surely make healthier choices.
  • Plenty of red? Provides a great incentive to do better.

Generally speaking?

While a plethora of information on healthy eating is available from different sources – cookbooks, TV shows, technology, mobile apps, social media, and YouTube videos – it can be hard for the average person to handle every day.

Between work, family obligations and pastimes, there’s precious little time left to research healthy food choices and lifestyles. It takes time and energy, both of which are rare in this day and age. Processed foods then take on added appeal as does fast food.

Known for his ability to solve business problems using his creative strategy and a good dose of imagination, British designer Hayden Peek proposes taking things a step further and putting nutritional information on supermarket receipts. Is a picture really worth a thousand words?

Five labels would appear on receipts under the total amount. They’d refer to the same nutritional elements as the processed foods, but would provide a score for all the groceries purchased.

Consumers would get an overall picture of the nutritional value of their purchases. Mostly orange would encourage consumers to aim for a better score in future. A lot of red, according to Hayden Peek, would be hard to ignore and likely compel consumers to makes changes.

In Canada

The nutritional value of food is provided in detail on every label: calories, fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates (fibres and sugars), proteins, vitamins, calcium and iron. It’s all there!

The level of detail makes it easier to compare two products. But the information is presented in a way that doesn’t grab the imagination and does not provide a quick overall idea of the food’s nutritional value, let alone all of the food purchased.

The Canadian government has undertaken a review of the Canada Food Guide in an effort to present the latest data on food and health, simplify and demystify information, and create a format that meets the needs of all the segments of the population.

At a time when obesity is rampant, will Hayden Peek’s proposal make its way into the process undertaken by Health Canada? We’ll have to wait and see!