Size Matters: Nutrition Labels Get a Makeover

02/27/2014 at 12:29 PM ET

Nutrition Label

Sometimes it takes a calculator — and a science degree — to understand a food’s nutrition label.

Confusing calorie counts, unrealistic serving sizes and outdated information (does anyone still keep track of “calories from fat”?) may soon be a thing of the past.

A revamped panel is expected to be introduced today by First Lady Michelle Obama, a longtime advocate of healthy eating and promoter of the Let’s Move initiative, which aims to end childhood obesity in the United States.

Why make changes now? “The initial nutritional facts label focused on fat in the diet,” the Food and Drug Administration’s Juli Putnam told Time. “There is now a shift to focus on calories to help consumers construct healthy diets.”

Last updated in the early 1990s, the current label lists calories, fats, cholesterol, sodium, fiber, sugar, protein and vitamins and is required on all packaged foods, from boxed cereal to frozen pizza.

“I think calorie count and the serving sizes [listed on the label] are the big issue that trick people up,” Greg Silverman, a nutrition educator with the group Share Our Strength, told NPR. Case in point: One package can have multiple servings, a fact that is often overlooked by consumers.

Besides clearer calorie and serving size descriptions, what else is on some nutrition experts’ wish list? A label that would appear on the package’s front and reveal the specific type of sugar contained in the product.

Corn syrup, we’re talking to you.

—Nancy Mattia

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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms
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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms

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On a clear day, you can see forever—or at least that’s the wicked thought behind L.A. designer Agi Berliner’s transparent idea: see-through jeans. Exhibitionists notwithstanding, most folks wear them over bathing suits or as attention-getting evening wear with halters, garter belts and body stockings. Created for the disco crowd, the $34 jeans are selling like, well, hot pants. In just six weeks, 25,000 pairs have already been sold in such major department store chains as Macy’s, Bonwit’s and Saks.

“What’s limiting American designers is that we’re afraid to do something different,” says Berliner, 32, a Hungarian émigré who fled with her family to the U.S. in 1956. Agi thought up the gimmick in London while marveling at the way plastics were being employed by designers of punk fashion. In her L.A. office, where she designs for La Parisienne junior sportswear, Agi spent five days on the phone and six weeks testing to come up with the right plastic.

Agi herself tried out the French-cut jeans with the zipper in front, and quickly found several problems: Some plastics tore away from stitching, others wouldn’t bend and all fogged with perspiration. The ideal material proved to be a vinyl supplied by a bookbinder. The steam was eliminated with a series of vents behind the knees and in the crotch. “They’re no hotter than polyester pants,” claims Agi, “and if you wear them with tights, they won’t stick to your legs.”

Whatever the discomfort and despite the problem of Saturday night feverishness, discomaniacs report one major advantage of the plastic pants: no laundry bills. To keep Berliner’s see-through jeans clear, all the wearer needs is a little Windex.

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