The UK’s Royal Society of Public Health is suggesting that food labels now also include "activity equivalent" measurements telling consumers how much to exercise in order to work off the meal. 

By F&W Editors
Updated May 24, 2017
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Credit: © Jade Sheldon

We've all been there: You demolish a bag of chips, and then you promise to "work it off" at the gym later to make up for the empty calorie consumption. (Some of us are more serious about making good on this promise than others.) But now, the UK’s Royal Society of Public Health is suggesting food companies push consumers more firmly toward putting their money where their mouth is, by including "activity equivalent" measurements on their labels.

"We think a clearer way of making people more mindful of the calories they are consuming is for a food or drink product to also show on the front of the packet a small icon which would visually display just how much activity you would need to do to burn off the calories it contains," said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, in an op-ed for the BBC.

The icon would show how approximately how long you'd need to walk or run to burn off the calories in, say, a chicken and bacon sandwich, according to Cramer. (An infographic accompanying her piece says that one chicken and bacon sandwich requires about 42 minutes of running, at 5 miles per hour, for caloric penance.)

"This is not meant to scare people, or to create a society of obsessives," Cramer said in the BBC piece. "But instead it is meant to show to the public very clearly just how active we need to be if we are to consume the diets we do and not put on weight. Or how we might need to readjust our diets to match our inactive lives."

One obvious flaw with the system Cramer proposes is that different people burn calories at varying rates. Still, the idea is meant to give people an awareness of what they're eating and how it affects them. Given America's problem with obesity, maybe that's not the worst idea in the world. In fact, we've even doled out some similar (if less scientific) workout-to-junk food guidance before. The moral of the story is, there's no need to totally deprive yourself of the things you like—but it's also worth renewing your gym membership.