Included in the health reform just recently passed by the House was a provision requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus. I have been desiring this for years!
I don’t typically eat at chain restaurants because I love the homier, more authentic feel of individual wine and dineries. However, when I do occasionally hit a chain, I try to opt for what assume is one of the healthier options on the menu. I’m pretty sure that these health conscious attempts are often a waste of time and usually taste. I’ve read numerous articles about the hidden calories in the so called healthier options provided by chains, such as the calorie-loaded salads that deceive numerous people who think they are consuming a lighter meal. These misleaders are the reason why calorie posts are essential. They are also important for the many people who simply don’t know a considerable amount about how to make healthy choices and are oblivious to the amount of calories that eating-out causes them to actually consume. Almost everyone knows that nachos wouldn’t be the best choice for lunch or dinner in terms of health, but would people still choose to order nachos at, let’s say Chili’s, if they knew they contained over 1000 calories and 78% of one’s daily fat? Or how about Applebee’s oriental chicken salad, which along with a few leave of lettuce, contains over 700 calories and 25 grams of fat? Maybe they would choose the medium-sized McDonald’s fries instead of the large, if they knew they contained over an extra 100 calories.
However, what’s surprising to me is that research shows that the calorie postings are unlikely to have that much affect on consumers choices. This boggles my mind because if I saw a 1000 calorie tag next to an entree, there would be no way I’d choose that option. Enacted in March of 2008, New York City passed a law requiring chain restaurants to post calories on menu boards. Studies monitoring how these postings have affected the number of calories people take in have been relatively bleak. One study showed that consumers actually consumed more calories than before the law was put into place. Another study found that while 56% of customers were aware of the NYC restaurant chain calorie postings, only 25% actually used the information to make a decision on what to order.
These studies prove that there aren’t enough health conscious people for the calorie posting provisions to actually work in fighting America’s obesity rates. Instead, America overall seems to be filled with a bunch of people who don’t really care what they’re putting into their bodies, in particular those who eat at chain restaurants. This shows that in order to prevent obesity from becoming the #1 cause of preventable death (which it’s quickly working its way up the list), we need to start educating people about how to make healthy choices and why it is important to do so. Health and nutrition education should start at a young age, and programs should be implemented as early as grade school. According to Time magazine, 30% of children in the U.S. are obese. This is an alarming number of kids that calls for the need to educate children about how to take care of their bodies in order to prevent obesity from lasting into adulthood.
While the calorie posting revision is just a tiny part of the 2000 page health reform that is soon to be voted on by the senate, it’s certainly an important component. However, in order for the law to have much beneficial affect on the fight against obesity, Americans first need to be educated. For now, the provision would simply help individuals like me who are exceptionally conscious of trying to maintain a healthy diet, the same people who are for the most part the least likely to eat at fast food and other chain restaurants.