Traffic Light Labels to Combat Unhealthy Eating

A new food labeling system was announced last Wednesday which uses colour-coding to help customers compare foods items on the basis of healthiness.

The new labels will use a traffic light system to show whether the amount of calories, sugar, fat, saturated fat and salt contained in the product is considered high, medium or low according to the food standards agency’s criteria.

Most of the major retailers and manufacturers have signed up to the scheme which will allow a busy shopper to tell at a glance whether a food is considered healthy. However certain companies such as Coca-Cola and Cadbury have refused to sign up for the scheme saying that they will continue to display guideline daily amounts on their packaging.

The government hope that the new labeling will allow consumers to make an informed choice and reduce the negative effects of a poor diet. Most of us know roughly how many calories we should be eating a day but are less clear about the amount of salt, sugar and fat. The new labels will help when buying pre-packaged food.

Salt

According to the NHS 75% of the salt we eat is already contained in the food rather than added. So even though you may not be adding salt to your pasta you might still be consuming over the recommended daily allowance. Certain foods such as soups and microwave meals may appear to be healthy but contain high amounts of salt. Salt can cause high blood pressure which in turn can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Top tip: Try using low sodium salt, or use spices and herbs to give flavour to your food.

Sugar

Sugar is also contained in many processed foods, apart from the obvious foods such as cakes and biscuits it is often hidden in low fat foods, cereals, tomato soup and tomato ketchup and can go by different names such as glucose, fructose and corn syrup.

Top tip: Half the amount of sugar you use in recipes- this will work for many recipes except jam, meringue and ice cream.

Fat

Saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol which means you are more likely to get heart disease.

Top tip: Not all fat is bad, unsaturated fats such as nuts, oily fish and olive oil are good for you and actually lower cholesterol.

Health Risks of Obesity

Obesity is a huge health risk associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some types of cancer and strokes. Obesity is defined by the NHS as having a BMI over 30 and a high degree of body fat. Body builders for example may have a high BMI as muscle weighs more than fat, but would have low body fat so would not be considered obese by this definition. Waist measurements are also used with waists over 94cm in men and 80cm in women being considered obese.

Insurance and The Body Mass Index

Somewhat controversially, insurers take BMI into account when underwriting income protection, life insurance and critical illness policies with people over a certain BMI being charged more for their premiums.

A BMI of 32-38 can increase premiums by 50%, a BMI of 39 and 40 can see them double and a BMI of over 40 can be an automatic decline. For example a 29 year old purchasing an income protection policy with the insurer LV will pay 50% more on monthly premiums with a BMI of 33; if the BMI goes up to 35 they will pay 75% more each month. This does vary from insurer to insurer so it is worth speaking to one of our advisers who can shop around for the best deal to suit your circumstances. Another thing to consider is that if you have recently lost weight it might be worth looking for a new insurance policy as you could save money on your premiums.