Episode 160818 / 18 Aug 2016

Is food labelling clear enough to help us make healthy choices? – Especially when on average we spend only six seconds making those choices in the supermarket. Alice and Neil discuss pizza and chocolate chip muffins along with some other tasty vocabulary.

This week's question

How long would you have to walk to burn off the calories in a quarter of a large pizza? Is it…

a) 33 minutes?

b) 53 minutes?

c) 83 minutes?

You'll hear the answer at the end of the programme.

Vocabulary

expended
used up

burn off
use

dense
tightly packed

informed
made on an understanding of the facts

see at a glance
understand something immediately

icon
simple picture

think twice
think carefully about doing something before you do it

tool
strategy; something you use to accomplish a task

Transcript

Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript.

Alice
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Alice…

Neil
And I'm Neil.

Alice
What are you eating, Neil?

Neil
It's a chocolate chip muffin.

Alice
How many calories do you think it contains?

Neil
I have no idea.

Alice
Check the packet.

Neil
It's hard to find the calorie content amongst all the other information here. Ah, here we go: 450.

Alice
That's a lot! Are you sure you should be eating that?

Neil
Why not? I expect I cycled off quite a few calories on the way to work.

Alice
Well, that depends on the length of your journey and how much energy you expended – or used up. Now, on today's show we're talking about food and the exercise it takes to burn off calories. And I have a question for you, Neil: How long would you have to walk to burn off the calories in a quarter of a large pizza? Is it…
a) 33 minutes?
b) 53 minutes?
c) 83 minutes?

Neil
I'll go for a) 33 minutes. That sounds quite enough considering if you ate the whole pizza it would mean walking for 132 minutes to burn off – or use – the calories. And that's over two hours!

Alice
Well, we'll find out later on whether you got the answer right or not, Neil. But be warned – people are bad at estimating how many calories there are in food. Now, the Royal Society for Public Health here in the UK is concerned that people don't read the information on food packaging because the text is so dense – it means, tightly packed.

Neil
Well, I never look at food labelling when I'm shopping for food. How about you, Alice?

Alice
Well, personally, I like to make an informed choice about what I put in my body, Neil! And informed means based on an understanding of the facts. So I spend a lot of time reading the packaging. And I think the current traffic lights are a great idea.

Neil
Traffic lights? What are you talking about?

Alice
It's where food content is colour-coded red, orange or green – like traffic lights – depending on its percentage of fat, sugar, and salt. So you can see at a glance which pizza on the supermarket shelf is better for you. This helps the consumer to make an informed choice.

Neil
To see at a glance means to understand something immediately. Well, my informed choice is based on which pizza has the most pepperoni on it. I had no idea food companies were putting traffic lights on their food packaging!

Alice
Yes, and that's not all, Neil. There are now plans to put an icon – or simple picture – of someone running plus the time it would take to burn off the calories contained in a particular food item on the front of packaging. Let's hear what some consumers on the streets of London thought about this idea.

INSERT
People in London

MAN: I would think twice about buying crisps if I have to run 19 minutes just to burn the calories I ate.
WOMAN: I'd either consider working out those 19 minutes or not eating the crisps at all.

Alice
Two people who would think twice about whether to buy crisps if they knew how long it would take to burn off the calories.

Neil
And think twice means to think carefully about doing something before you do it. But, to be honest, I want freedom to do what I feel like. Even if they put a label on the food I think I'd exercise if I wanted to exercise, but I think I'd still have a packet of crisps if I wanted a packet of crisps.

Alice
That's fine so long as you are clear about how active you need to be to eat what you do and not put on weight.

Neil
But a healthy diet isn't just about calories is it? I wouldn't need to cycle to work to burn off a diet cola, but drinking a fresh orange juice would be a healthier choice – even though it contains more calories.

Alice
Well, that's a good point. Let's listen now to Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive at the Royal Society for Public Health, talking about why she thinks the new labelling is necessary.

INSERT
Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive, Royal Society for Public Health
We've got 60% of the UK population either overweight or obese. We have a very, very urgent problem. We have a growing population, literally, and we need to have a lot of tools in our toolbox, a lot of new strategies, I think, in order to support people to make good choices.

Neil
Shirley Cramer of the Royal Society of Public Health. So, she says we need lots of tools – or strategies –to help tackle obesity in the UK. And linking energy content in food to physical activity is just one tool in the toolbox, so to speak.

Alice
Indeed. Now, I think it's time for the answer to today's quiz question, Neil. I asked you: How long would you have to walk to burn off the calories in a quarter of a large pizza? Is it… a) 33 minutes? b) 53 minutes? Or c) 83 minutes?

Neil
And I said a) 33 minutes.

Alice
And you underestimated, I'm afraid, Neil! The answer is c) 83 minutes. This figures comes from Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health. Writing in the British Medical Journal, she argues that food should be labelled with the equivalent exercise needed to burn off its calories. This would give consumers an immediate link between food's energy content and physical activity that might help to reduce obesity.

Neil
Note, Alice, that I've put my muffin to one side. You've convinced me to eat more healthily and I'll be eating a green salad for lunch.

Alice
I'll believe that when I see it, Neil.
OK, here are the words we learned today:
expended
burn off
dense
informed
see at a glance
icon
think twice
tool

Neil
Well, that's the end of this edition of 6 Minute English. Join us again soon. Meanwhile visit our website bbclearningenglish.com, where you'll find guides to grammar, exercises videos and articles to read and improve your English.

Both
Bye!

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Should we all pay for supermarket plastic bags? Neil and Alice take a look at the environmental impact of plastic and teach you some related words.

• Shakespeare in plain English

Episode 151029 / 29 Oct 2015

Should the difficult language of Shakespeare be 'translated' into plain English?

• New transport on two wheels

Episode 151022 / 22 Oct 2015

The bicycle is the most popular form of two-wheeled transport in the world, but could we all soon be using hoverboards? Listen to Neil and Finn's conversation and learn some new words.

• Will robots take our jobs?

Episode 151015 / 15 Oct 2015

If you are sitting at a desk or answering the phone, stop for a moment and ask: could a robot or machine do this job better? Neil and Finn discuss the future of our jobs.

• Do we read to show off?

Episode 151008 / 08 Oct 2015

Neil and Alice discuss what kind of book people like to be seen reading. Do you like to impress people with a classic book in your hands?

• Summer-born kids

Episode 151001 / 01 Oct 2015

Does being born in the summer reduce your chance of going to university?

• The Earth's core

Episode 150924 / 24 Sep 2015

Take a trip with Rob and Alice to find out about the Earth’s core. They’ll discuss how hot it is – and whether there are any dinosaurs living there!

• The meaning of clothes

Episode 150917 / 17 Sep 2015

Do you dress formally or casually? Do you choose trendy items or old comfortable ones? Rob and Will talk about the meaning of clothes.

• The Proms

Episode 150910 / 10 Sep 2015

It's been described as the world's largest and most democratic classical music festival. Neil and Finn guide you through the BBC Proms

• Is knuckle cracking good for you?

Episode 150903 / 03 Sep 2015

What an awful sound - cracking your knuckles! Listen in to Rob and Neil to find out if it's a useful skill or just an annoying habit

• Evolution before Darwin

Episode 150827 / 27 Aug 2015

Was Charles Darwin the only man with ideas about evolution? Rob and Neil talk about someone else who discovered it first.

• Lifts

Episode 150820 / 20 Aug 2015

What are the modern day dilemmas in using a lift? Rob and Neil discuss the awkwardness and irritation of being in one

• Compulsory voting

Episode 150813 / 13 Aug 2015

Should young people be made to vote in elections or should we choose? We discuss the ideas behind compulsory voting

• Chins

Episode 150806 / 08 Aug 2015

What do we need our chins for? Rob and Neil discuss how we got them and what our chins say about us

• Why do gibbons sing duets?

Episode 150730 / 30 Jul 2015

Why do gibbons sing duets and what has this got to do with the evolution of the human language?

• Are models too skinny?

Episode 150723 / 23 Jul 2015

Skinny models: What does the law say about walking the catwalk?

• Is a game just a game?

Episode 150716 / 16 Jul 2015

The dangers of computer games. How good are they for our health?

• The wonder of blood

Episode 150709 / 09 Jul 2015

It's amazing! What part of our body have scientists discovered can heal and help us?

• Why did Singapore ban gum?

Episode 150702 / 02 Jul 2015

Do you chew gum and what do you do with it when you've finished? Listen to Rob and Finn discussing the history and chemical properties of gum and why it's messing up our streets whilst explaining some related vocabulary

• Food banks

Episode 150625 / 25 Jun 2015

Food banks provide food to people in the UK who can't afford to buy their own. Rob and Finn discuss this how they work and how they help many of the country's poorest

• The teenage brain

Episode 150618 / 18 Jun 2015

Listen to Neil and Rob discussing mood swings, risk taking, and why people make fun of teenagers, while they also explore some related vocabulary.

• The Outernet

Episode 150611 / 11 Jun 2015

How can remote parts of the world get access to the internet? Neil and Catherine discuss a new idea for spreading knowledge

• Is aggression useful?

Episode 150604 / 04 Jun 2015

What makes us angry and why is aggression useful? Neil and Catherine discuss human behaviour.

• Are beards back to stay?

Episode 150528 / 28 May 2015

Big bushy beards have become so fashionable that there's now an art exhibition dedicated to them

• Is a door just a door?

Episode 150521 / 21 May 2015

A London apartment block has front and back entrances for private and social housing - or so-called rich and poor doors. Does it make sense to you? Listen to a discussion whilst learning some housing-related vocabulary

• The first space walk

Episode 150514 / 14 May 2015

Fifty years ago, on 18 March 1965, Soviet astronaut Alexei Leonov took the first space walk. Listen to Rob and Neil describing the struggles of that ground-breaking space mission whilst explaining some related vocabulary.

• Wireless furniture for phones

Episode 150507 / 07 May 2015

Furniture with built-in wireless charging technology - like a coffee table is now being sold. 'Built-in' means the technology is included as part of the table. So you just pop your phone on the table, and technology does the rest!

• Saving China's elephants

Episode 150430 / 30 Apr 2015

Many animals face extinction. But people are realising that they must act now to stop further losses. A scheme to save the Asian elephant in China could provide an answer.

• Life without music

Episode 150423 / 23 Apr 2015

How does music make you feel? Research shows that it actually influences us more than we realise - whether we're at the movies, the supermarket, or down the pub

• The story behind coffee

Episode 150416 / 16 Apr 2015

Coffee is now the most popular drink in the world. But what about the economics and politics of coffee production? It's as complicated as getting the right flavour in your cup

• The sun

Episode 150409 / 09 Apr 2015

Rob and Neil put on their sunglasses to find out more about this special star and teach some related vocabulary. We promise you won’t be blinded with science!

• The three-parent baby

Episode 150402 / 02 Apr 2015

The UK has become the first country to approve legislation allowing the creation of babies with genetic material from three people. Listen to Neil and Harry’s conversation and learn some related vocabulary.

• A threat to London's artwork?

Episode 150326 / 26 Mar 2015

What are some art galleries banning to protect their paintings? Find out with Neil and Harry

• Human microchips

Episode 150319 / 19 Mar 2015

An electronic device under your skin?! Workers in Sweden take part in experiment which allows them to get in and out of their office without a key, ID or password. Listen to Neil and Harry’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.

• The two sides of Churchill

Episode 150312 / 12 Mar 2015

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death. He is known throughout the world for his role in defeating Nazi Germany but he also made mistakes. Listen to Neil and Mike’s discussion, and learn new vocabulary.

• Poverty in a rich world

Episode 150305 / 05 Mar 2015

We live in a richer world. But the gap between rich and poor is still very wide in individual countries. How to change this? Listen to Rob and Harry’s discussion, and learn some related vocabulary.

• The cost of life-saving vaccines

Episode 150226 / 26 Feb 2015

The price of vaccines has escalated and some poor countries are struggling to prevent children from catching certain life-threatening diseases, says Medecins Sans Frontieres. Listen to Rob and Neil’s discussion, and learn some related vocabulary.

• Do you fear Artificial Intelligence?

Episode 150219 / 19 Feb 2015

Will thinking computers be the end of humans? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.

• Should tourists go to Antarctica?

Episode 150212 / 12 Feb 2015

About 37,000 tourists are expected to visit Antarctica this season. But should they be going to a region with such a sensitive environment? Listen to Rob and Neil’s conversation and learn some new vocabulary.

Episode 150205 / 05 Feb 2015

At a time when more people compete for fewer jobs, are you sure you present your skills and abilities well to a potential employer? Listen to Rob and Neil's conversation and learn some related vocabulary.

• Are you big on small talk?

Episode 150129 / 29 Jan 2015

Going to a party where you don't know anyone? Listen to Rob and Neil's advice and learn some related vocabulary

• Are computers making us dumb?

Episode 150122 / 22 Jan 2015

We use computers for everything nowadays. Are we forgetting our own abilities - and losing our talent? Listen to Rob and Neil's discussion, and learn some related vocabulary

• Smokers to face one more ban

Episode 150115 / 15 Jan 2015

Smoking in cars with children might be banned in England. Listen to Neil and Rob's chat and learn some related vocabulary

• Bullying or normal competition?

Episode 150108 / 08 Jan 2015

Is bullying just an attempt to give a bad name to what is part of human nature? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.

• Time capsules

Episode 150101 / 01 Jan 2015

What would you put in your time capsule? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn new vocabulary

• The Christmas Truce

Episode 141225 / 25 Dec 2014

When enemy soldiers sang together in WW1. Listen to Rob and Finn’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.

• 42 languages

Episode 141218 / 18 Dec 2014

The London school where students speak 42 different languages

• Laughter is bad for you

Episode 141211 / 11 Dec 2014

Laughter isn't always the best medicine, says research

• Cloud of suspicion

Episode 141204 / 04 Dec 2014

Are your pictures, documents and videos safe online? Listen to Rob and Finn's chat and learn new vocabulary

• Sharing economy

Episode 141127 / 27 Nov 2014

Nowhere to park? How the sharing economy is changing the way we use our space

• Can science fiction save the world?

Episode 141120 / 20 Nov 2014

How can science fiction help the world? Rob and Finn discuss a project which aims to inspire through stories of a bright future

• Is eating meat killing our planet?

Episode 141113 / 13 Nov 2014

Why is eating meat bad news?

• What makes a superhero?

Episode 141106 / 06 Nov 2014

Do real-life superheroes exist or are they just cartoon characters?

• Cigarettes v e-cigarettes

Episode 141030 / 30 Oct 2014

Rob and Finn discuss the World Health Organisation's recommendations on e-cigarettes

• The bitter taste of sugar

Episode 141023 / 23 Oct 2014

Should we eat less sugar? Listen to Rob and Neil and learn new vocabulary

• How quickly can you learn English?

Episode 141016 / 16 Oct 2014

Is learning English getting easier? Find out what's new

• Sleeping on the job

Episode 141002 / 02 Oct 2014

Is it right to sleep at work? Rob and Finn discuss the benefits of sleeping on the job.

• The fame game

Episode 140929 / 29 Sep 2014

Is the way we see famous people a new thing? Learn about the first 'modern celebrity'.

• Dealing with boredom

Episode 140821 / 21 Aug 2014

Bored? You're not alone. Rob and Finn discuss how to deal with boredom and teach some related vocabulary. We promise you won't be bored!