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Nanny State: According To Canada, Food Labels Are ‘Triggering’

The Daily Tonic is a two to five minute read sharing science backed health news and tips, all while getting you to crack a smile or even lol on occasion.

When it comes to their health, college students are struggling. Almost 1 in every 3 college-aged Americans is now obese. When it comes to mental health, college kids aren’t doing any better. Approximately 73% of students say they experience a mental health crisis while in college, and more than 80% report feeling overwhelmed with work.

So why are college students struggling so badly? 

According to this study, the most common barriers to healthy eating in college were time constraints, unhealthy snacking, the convenience of high-calorie food, stress, high prices of healthy food, and easy access to junk food. The study did not cite alcohol consumption, but anecdotally I am going to add that one to the list. 

There is a reason why the freshman 15 is so well-known. College life is not exactly conducive to the healthiest food choices

So what are colleges doing to help their students make smarter food choices? One not-so-good idea that some colleges in Canada have adopted is to remove nutritional information from the food served in their meal plans. 

According to this article from the University of British Columbia, nutrition labels and calories are triggering, causing more harm than good. Instead of knowing how many calories are in the food served on campus, students are encouraged to tune into their bodies and “eat intuitively.” 

If food labels with factual information are triggering, how can young adults learn resiliency or proper eating?

Ahh, that’s right. Nothing is more foolproof than relying on a college student’s intuition to make intelligent decisions. I don’t know about your college experience, but my “intuition” as a freshman in college wasn’t exactly one of my strengths. 

Going back to the study we cited earlier, researchers found that the most critical enabler to making healthy food choices in college was improved food knowledge and education. College students need to understand that they shouldn’t be over-consuming calories to maintain a healthy weight. They should then have transparent access to the calorie content of the foods they are served so that they at least have the right information in front of them to make smarter choices. 

The key takeaway? College students are struggling with their health. Hiding information about the food they serve will not help reverse that. The calorie content of a food shouldn’t be triggering but rather a helpful tool to understand how much of that food is appropriate. 

Intuitive eating is an approach that can work for people once they have a baseline understanding of what good food choices actually look like. However, it is probably not the best idea for a college freshman with unlimited access to junk at a college campus dining hall. 

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