Joe Taylor Southlake is the owner of Southlake’s Wood Fired Pizza. His restaurant aims to provide healthier options for diners, including vegetarian and gluten-free selections. While nutrition is important to Joe, he also notes that it’s not always easy to make healthful food choices; this is often due to difficulty interpreting nutrition labels correctly.
A new study shows that food labels that advertise lower sodium ingredients are helpful when it comes to making purchasing decisions, but actually knowing what these food labels are saying is far more difficult. Researchers took a look at how consumers interpret phrases like “low in sodium” or “helps lower blood pressure.”
Mary L’Abbe, who is a co-author of the study, states, “Governments have gone out of their way to set different criteria for the different types of claims. But a consumer wouldn’t necessarily see that.”
L’Abbe asked 506 Canadians about a tomato soup can that made various statements on its label. The researchers noted that any claim about sodium, preventing disease, or lowering blood pressure made an individual more likely to purchase that product. About one in three of those surveyed had high blood pressure, and felt positively toward sodium labeling overall.
Joe Taylor Southlake reflects on these findings and notes, “It’s great that people are trying to make healthful choices and want to select food products that are low in sodium. However, it’s crucially important that people fully understand what the food labels they are seeing indicate. Manufacturers need to make it abundantly clear what ‘low in sodium’ actually means so that food shopping is no longer a guessing game.”
The Food and Drug Administration is harsh on organizations that lack the proper data to back claims on disease-fighting powers, but are relatively lenient when it comes to claims about a product’s sodium content. The policies on food labeling are similar in Canada as they are to those found in the United States.
In the survey, many of the respondents were not impressed by the “tastes great!” statement that they found. However, they did express some confusion about why they should care about reduced sodium. Many answered that they felt that lower sodium foods helped with problems regarding diabetes, constipation, and weight loss. In reality, diets that are lower in sodium help to reduce blood pressure.
Joe Taylor Southlake states, “Clearly people are trying to get educated but need more training when it comes to food choices. They understand that lower sodium diets are beneficial, but they don’t quite know why. It’s important that consumers know why these choices are beneficial, and exactly how these options impact their bodies. We want them to know why they want to eat diets that are lower in sodium, and not just that they should do it for general health purposes. This kind of education plays an important role in the long run.”
Christina Wong, who is the lead author of the study, speaks out on individuals’ perception of sodium. “What we saw there was a halo effect with the low-sodium claim. They see a whole range of health benefits that are totally unrelated to the nutrient.”
However, the fact that people are receptive to low-sodium foods is a step in the right direction for consumers. Manufacturers were previously afraid to advertise lower sodium levels in food, even though they have made a conscious effort to reduce these numbers, because they feared that these products would get met with resistance. However, it is clear that buyers feel no negative feelings toward these types of foods, and many actually embrace them.
L’Abbe confirms this. “Some manufacturers say consumers have negative impressions toward low-sodium foods, but our research doesn’t show that.”
Joe Southlake feels that the abundance of low-sodium foods is promising, and encourages individuals to understand why these dietary choices are strong ones. He opines, “It’s important that consumers continue to buy these products in order to show manufacturers that there is a demand for these types of items. A low-sodium diet proves beneficial to many different groups, and having a more diverse range of lower-sodium choices makes it even easier to eat a delicious meal that is free of potentially problematic nutrients.” Joe Taylor Southlake states that he is proud to offer low sodium choices at his own restaurant.
Joe Taylor Southlake is the owner of Southlake’s Wood Fired Pizza, a staple in the Sarasota, Florida area. The restaurant provides a diverse menu, and offers plenty of options for those with dietary requests. From gluten-free selections to vegan choices, Joe aims to make it possible for anyone to enjoy a slice of pizza, regardless of a person’s eating plan. Joe’s restaurant regularly hosts children’s birthday parties where kids can create their own pizza and learn some basics about cooking. While many other restaurants dump their leftovers after the night is over, Joe and his brother Josh regularly donate their extra food items to food banks and soup kitchens, thus giving everyone the chance to enjoy a delicious meal.