Menu

Menu Labeling Broadening Healthy Options

Posting Calories, Fat, and Sodium

Well it looks like taking an enviornmental approach to the obesity epidemic - which cost the American economy an estimated $117 billion in 2010 - is starting to impact retail and restaurant options.  In a recent study done in Kings County, Washington, consumers are increasing demand for healthier options in response to knowing what it is that they're eating.

“We did find evidence of a decrease in energy, saturated fat, and sodium content after the implementation of menu regulations for items that were on the menu at both time periods,” reports Dr. Bruemmer. “We also saw a trend for healthier alternatives across all entrées over time, but only in the sit-down restaurants.”

Given the reach of the obesity epidemic here in the US, I'm a big believer in the total approach.  I think it is important for us to make the environment in which we live less obesogenic and for consumers to make informed decisions.

 

[Sidenote: I had no good images for this particular blog on hand, so this Rubiks cube of pork and cheese is a small shoutout to my belovedly left-brained brother who turned 22 today.  Happy birthday Derek!]

Falsified Calorie Information?

The Calorie-Menu Debate

New York City instituted a law that requires restaurants to put the calorie content of their foods on the menu.  Since its inception almost a dozen other cities have done the same, and legislation is being considered in the Senate to create national policies instead of leaving it up to local governments.  NYC decided to place calorie content prominently on their menus in an attempt to inform customers, and hopefully eventually slow down the growing rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.  

Dishonesty.

A recent study by Scripps Research Institute brought many of those NYC menu items to independent labs to determine the calorie content of random items.  Each item was tested twice by different labs.  The study found that the calorie counts being reported on the menus did not reflect the numbers found by the laboratories.  Instead, the menus often showed a number lower than those found.  This has been highlighted by an article in the Wall Street Journal.  How are we supposed to make informed decisions if the restaurants aren't meeting us halfway with honesty?  

According to NPD Group, one in five meals or snacks consumed in the U.S. are produced by restaurants, and 59% of restaurant traffic is at chains.  - WSJ Article

With dining out the norm and not the exception, I think it is very important that people have access to the caloric information.  I don't think that means it needs to be displayed on the menu that is handed to you in the restaurant.  However, having the ability to look that up can help people manage any current diseases or conditions, deal with food allergies and intolerances, and possibly stave off unwanted caloric intake.  

 Photo courtesy of Taylor Umlauf with the Wall Street Journal

What Do You Think?

Setting this law into stone nationally is not the answer to the trend of our growing waistlines in this country, but do you think it is a step in the right direction?  Where would you like to see this information displayed?  And do you think it affects your choices in selecting foods to eat at restaurants?