Calorie Police or Helpful Nutrition Information?

Beware “The Calorie Police!”  At least, that’s how some look at the newly proposed Federal legislation which would require chain restaurants with 20 or more establishments to post the calories of everything they serve, right on the menu.  The National Restaurant Association, which originally fought calorie posting, now says it supports it.

Dr. Lynn Silver, Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention & Control at New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says “We hope this law will have a significant impact on both the frequency of obesity and diabetes in our city [which already has the law, by the way].  We estimate that in our city there will be 150,000 fewer people obese because of this.”

Well, I don’t know if that’s true, since every time I go out to eat, I see relatively fit people eating fish and vegetables and fat people eating lasagna with extra cheese.

I’ve only encountered the calorie menu one time so far, and it was in New York.  There were dishes I thought were healthy, but I was totally wrong about them.  I definitely ordered my meals completely based on calorie content, leaving out foods I knew were yummy but which were calorie-laden.  Nonetheless, I was shocked to see how many relatively innocent-looking dishes had enough calories for the entire day and the next morning too.

I know people who have worked in a number of restaurants, and they tell me that to make food “delicious,” extra sugar, fat and salt are added by the bucketful.  Butter, butter, and more butter; sugar to make the food sweeter, and salt to give more flavor.  This is especially true when the meat, poultry or fish is not of the highest quality or if it’s a bit old.

I’ve gotten to the point that no matter what I order (even fish), I ask for whatever sauce they are serving to be put on the side.  I never have salad with dressing – again, I order any dressing on the side.  If I use any sauce or dressing at all, it’s a micro drizzle for a little taste. 

Do I think this will diminish obesity?  No.  I do think, however, that it will help people with self discipline as well as the motivation to be healthy to make the right choices and not be undermined right under their noses.  I think that, generally, folks with limited motivation and self-discipline will ignore or rationalize the calorie facts and add unwanted pressure to our health system, where the health-conscious have to financially support the health-unconscious behavior of others. 

I do believe that the calorie count posting laws might serve to have restaurants cut fewer corners when it comes to the quality of their cooking and their menu planning.  And that I am looking forward to!