Nutrition News: Healthy-Eating Insurance Discount, 'Activity Equivalent' Calorie Labeling and Walmart’s Cage-Free Eggs

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Young woman in the supermarket

Healthy Eaters and Financial Incentives

Why didn’t anyone do this before? The insurance company John Hancock is now offering its life insurance policyholders financial incentives — lower premiums, grocery-store discounts and cash back deals — for consuming healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. The company’s president, Michael Doughty, told USA Today that the program, the first of its kind, involves a loyalty card policyholders swipe at the supermarket register and is “designed to recognize that nutrition, and particularly nutrition combined with exercise, is really the best recipe for living a long and healthy life.” And he said, “If we can play a role in helping our customers in doing that, it’s going to be good for them and good for us as a company.” Right on.

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Eat and Run

Here’s another great idea: A British organization dedicated to improving public health and well-being, the Royal Society of Public Health, has called for packaged foods to be labeled not only with nutrition information and calories, but also with how much exercise (as in minutes spent walking, running or biking) it would take to burn the calories consumed by eating the product. The introduction of “activity equivalent” calorie labeling, the group’s president said in an article in The BMJ, could “prompt people to be more mindful of the energy they consume and how these calories relate to activities in their everyday lives, and to encourage them to be more physically active,” thus combating obesity. It could be worth a shot.

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Cage-Free “Tipping Point”

Walmart and Sam’s Club are following the lead of other grocery retailers, such as Target, Kroger and Albertsons, and fast-food outlets such as McDonald’s, and going all cage-free. The company announced plans to offer only eggs that come from hens that are not confined to individual cages — a reflection, it said, of customer and employee demand for both “affordability and quality” and “transparency into how … food is grown and raised” — in its stores by 2025. Although, the company noted, that timetable could change “based on available supply, affordability and customer demand.”

Animal rights organizations have hailed the mega-retail chain’s move. A spokesman for the Humane League, which worked with Walmart on the policy change, called it a “historic tipping point.” For egg eaters as well as hens.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.