Mark Bittman’s dream food label is a lot like what I’ve been advocating for years.

I’m not saying he copied from me (Oh, how I wish!), or that I was his inspiration (A dream come true!).  I’m just saying…

Bittman and I agree: It doesn’t matter what your kids eat. What matters is how often they eat it. (Does it really matter who said it first?)

The essence of Bittman’s new food label is a color code.

  • Green: Eat freely.
  • Yellow: Eat with restraint or consideration.
  • Red: Eat food rarely or never.

In other words, Bittman’s label is translating nutrition information into behavior.

  • Nutrition Information=Knowledge.
  • Behavior=Habits. 

Hmmm. ~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~ (Where have I heard that before?

The online photo of the label is only a partial image.

I don’t know if it’s The New York Times‘ problem or my technological incompetence, but here is the label.

There is a 5-bar scale for each of three components: nutrition, foodness and welfare. (Finally, Bittman gets original: I’ve never written about welfare.)

  • Nutrition=A summary of the “Nutrition Facts” box.
  • Foodness=A meausre of how close a product is to being real.
  • Welfare: A measure of the impact of the food’s production on the welfare of everything involved, including laborers, animals, land, etc.

Every food is scored 1 out of 5 for each dimension, leading to an overall number grade, out of 15 possible points.

The numeric score is then translated into a color code.


Bittman’s label puts proportion into action.  

Proportion is one of the three principles of healthy eating.  Eat healthy foods more frequently than less healthy foods.

The other two principles are variety and moderation.

You don’t need to know anything but these three principles to have healthy eating habits because these principles translate nutrition into action.  And even young kids can understand them.

  • “We eat these foods more often than those foods” (proportion).
  • “We eat different foods from day-to-day” (variety).
  • “We eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full, and we don’t eat because we’re bored, sad, or lonely” (moderation).

The current nutrition label, Bittman argues, is information overload.

That’s why I’ve always said, nobody needs nutrition labels.  Nutrition labels:

  • Complicate your shopping experience. Who knows which parts to pay attention to?
  • Are only useful for processed foods. We don’t put them on bananas because…nobody needs them there.

For more on how to live your life without nutrition labels…

Read Slackers Rule. Or, you could read The New York Times article.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~