Nina In New York: Aw, Sugar, Sugar

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
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By Nina Pajak

It’s finally happened! After much ado and discussion and jibber jabber and hubbub and chatter, the Food and Drug Administration has finally finalized the final, new nutrition labels! Ta da!

According to The New York Times, things were looking bleak for a bit. Many food industry lobbyists objected to the new design, particularly due to the new “added sugars” line, which clearly points out how much sugar has been added to a given product for those who may not have the patience or wherewithal or reading glasses to spot it in the ingredients list. Thankfully for America, the corporate interests lost the battle and our citizenry’s eyes can be opened to the world of sweeteners in which we live.

I am a person who has always been calorie conscious, and therefore label conscious. But it wasn’t until having to negotiate a particular diet to deal with gestational diabetes that I realized just how much of the sweet stuff is being added to our packaged food. It takes significantly more effort to avoid sugar than it does to consume it, even when you think you’re going for products that aren’t associated with being sweet. Bread, tomato sauce, frozen meals, deli salads, all loaded. Do you realize how many lines of “all natural” peanut butter still contain added sugar? A friend who recently repatriated from England nearly lost her mind trying to find a brand of yogurt here for her kids that was flavored with real fruit but without loads of extra sweetener, to which they’d become accustomed. In the end, she gave up. Items that are naturally sweet, like juices and jams, are still pumped full of sugar.Starbucks adds sugar to your iced coffee without even asking you! It is their default, you guys. Prepare to have your minds blown, America. That is, you know, assuming you are going to start reading nutrition labels.

Other changes to the old format include larger print calorie counts and serving sizes that actually reflect normal, human portions. Because if you think the numbers you’re reading on the side of the carton in any way pertain to what you’ve just put on your plate, you’re nuts. For instance, says The Times, on the new label, “A single ice cream serving is two-thirds of a cup — compared with the current half cup.”

That current half cup serving is how much I am permitted on my diabetes diet. Unless you, too, are a slave to the glucose meter, you probably don’t even know what a half cup of ice cream looks like. Why should you? If someone handed you a bowl containing that amount, you’d probably wipe away a single tear and ask that person who ate all your ice cream? The ice cream Grinch, that’s who. Unrepentant bastard.

Obviously, certain parties are less than thrilled. Like the Sugar Association, which fails to see the reasoning behind the emphasis on added sugar. Yeah, I can’t imagine why anyone thought this might be important.

I don’t want to end this on a down note, though. The country’s diabetes epidemic is such a bummer way to start out the week. Here, watch this clip of The Archies playing their apropos hit song and think back to a time when food was food, and a skinny, redheaded, freckled kid who drove a jalopy could be the most popular guy in school.

Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!

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