For the most part, I’m starting to feel at home in London, and it doesn’t feel like “OMG I’m in a foreign country.” I’ve become more familiar with the food here and — dare I admit — discontinued using some of my US toiletries in favour of British brands. But there’s one thing about daily English life that has bothered me since Day 1 of living here — their nutritional information.
Lately, in an effort to eat better, I’ve been trying to monitor my food intact. To be blunt, I’ve been doing a little bit of calorie counting. (You have my word — if I ever become that skinny girl at the party who asks how many calories are in everything then refuses to eat the dessert, please shove said dessert in my face.) I’m not obsessive about it, but I’ve realized if I want my daily exercise to count, I’ve got to stop eating more than my body can burn off. So I’ve been paying more attention to nutritional labels and have been trying to stay closer to the serving size. In England, this is easier said than done.
I complained about how British food is packaged in my posts about cooking here, but their package-by-weight bothers me even more when I look at the nutritional facts.
For example, both of these cereal boxes are technically the same size — 375g.
And this box of Coco Pops (why not Cocoa Krispies, Kellogg’s UK?) is only 50g larger than this tiny “whopping 500g” box of Chocolatey Squares (creative name!). (And yes, I did buy the Coco Pops solely because I got the free bowl. Sometimes I am still 5 years old).
And then we come to the nutritional facts, where the serving size is listed as “30g.” How am I supposed to eyeball 30g of cereal in my bowl? Am I supposed to get a little kitchen scale and weigh out 30g of cereal? Am I supposed to do math? (Let’s see, 550 divided by 30 equals 18.33333, so I just have to pour 1/18 of the box into my bowl!)
It’s not just cereal that is like this — every food is. For lunch today I had some of these little cheese crackers:
In the US, they would give a serving size of number of crackers, so I would know if, for example, I only wanted to ingest 150 calories, I should only eat 10 crackers.
But here is what these cracker’s nutritional info looks like:
At least they do the math for me and let me know the drum contains 10 25g servings, but that doesn’t tell me when to stop shoving crackers in my mouth at 129 calories.
My other complaint is that nutritional facts are often give per 100g (note the left column in the photo). That’s cool if the entire container or serving size is 100g, but most of the time it isn’t, and occasionally I’ve encountered labels that don’t give you the facts per serving size, so I’m forced to do the math myself. I don’t usually mind mental math, but it seems like way too much effort just to figure out how much food I should be eating.
I’m looking forward to going back to the US next month, when I will likely forget all about calories as I’m shoving Taco Bell and Spaghetti-Os in my mouth, but I will take comfort in the fact that I could easily calculate the amount of calories in that crunchy beef-product taco or bowl of watered down tomato soup with alphabet noodles if I wanted to.