You wouldn't think that my native New York City would be at the forefront of healthy eating legislation, more like my adopted recent Southern California home, but after passing legislation giving restaurants a certain period of time in which to eliminate trans fats from the food they serve, they're back again with a proposal before the New York City Board of Health to require fast food chains to post calorie content on their menus in plain sight.
The theory is that if you knew you were guzzling down an average 1300 calories in a meal, perhaps some of the lighter fare these places do offer might see the light of day, people would eat smaller portions, or cut down on their order. I think it's a good idea because study after study shows most people (I used to myself) do underestimate the number of calories that they eat in a day.
Deep down, most people entering a fast food chain restaurant know they are not about to eat health food in general (although in fairness, it's all about choices, as most fast food chains have some food of redeeming value on their menus, but it's rarely chosen), but the difference between "I'm eating a lot of calories" and "Holy @%&#! I'm eating a lot of calories", could be quite eye opening.
Of course calories are just one aspect of eating healthy--you also need to know about other nutrition information such as fat (saturated and trans fat especially), protein, fiber, carbohydrates and sodium to name a few, to truly evaluate one offering from another. So I'd actually prefer that there was also a big board showing the details for each item as well posted on the wall by the counter. But it's a start.
Of course the New York Restaurant Association doesn't like the proposal, claiming it will clutter up already crowded menus among other things. A bit lame, no? Why clutter up a menu with calorie facts!
I also think that just targeting fast food chains of 15 locations or more isn't going far enough. Why just them? Why shouldn't ANY eatery--fast food or 5-star restaurant or hot dog stand--with even one location be required to post the same nutrition information, so customers can make better choices anywhere they go? The most elegant restaurant can serve food that is just as fattening as a fast food place--you just pay more for it and eat slower!
The proposal is before the Board today and would take affect on Mach 31st if it passes. Keep your fingers crossed, as it may encourage more states to do the same and then some. But even if it doesn't, ultimately we are all responsible for the choices we make, and if nutrition information is not available at an eating establishment, check out their web site. If it still isn't there, contact them and ask why not--what have they got to hide?
You can also carry the convenient CalorieKing Calorie, Fat And Carbohydrate Counter which includes information for 200 fast food and chain restaurants as well as 11,000 total food entries.
More nutrition information doesn't necessarily mean you won't eat an item if you know the calorie content is huge (although I hope it will at least give you a moment's pause), but at least you can make a conscious choice and know that you have to mix in more salads or fruit too, and you'll have to work out to burn it off for sure that day.
--Melanie R. Jordan, Author of Have Your Cheeseburger And Keep Your Health Too! Available 24/7 at http://www.HealthyEatingCoach.com
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