Will Calorie Counts Affect Your Choices?

The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed requiring most food outlets and restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus. Will it make a difference?

Right now, most of you know that a fast food cheeseburger, french fries and a soda give you enough fat and calories for a whole day. That’s a lot of food for a small amount of money. It’s also usually only one of three meals you’ll eat that day. Do the math. Is it really any wonder that Americans are so fat?

The FDA has decided to take action. Or at least they’ve proposed it.

“We’ve got a huge obesity problem in this country and it’s due in part to excess calorie consumption outside the home,” says Mike Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods. “Consumers generally when you ask them say they would prefer to have that information.”

These new rules apply to restaurant chains with more than 20 outlets, bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stores and coffee chains. The calorie counts must appear on both the regular menus and drive-throughs. They also apply to vending machines where package calorie information is unreadable from outside the machine. Exempt from the rule are movie theaters, airplanes, bowling alleys, alcoholic drinks and any business in which food is not a primary function.

Many food outlets already publish nutritional information, but not as part of the menu. The FDA believes that information should be located as part of what consumers use to make ordering choices. Further, the agency says this rule, currently part of its funding bill, will standardize the information around the country.

The FDA and many consumer advocates are rather excited about this proposal. They believe it may lead you, the consumer, who eats nearly a third of one’s meals away from home, to make healthier choices. While I applaud the idea, I have my doubts about how effective it will be. There’s already a lot of nutritional information available to consumers but it does no good if people don’t read the labels or know anything about food and our bodies’ needs. As the old saying goes: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Too many people seem to disengage their minds when it comes to food. But with more people becoming more concerned about food, health and nutrition, maybe making these tools more readily available will have the intended affect and help our country lose some weight.

What do you think? Will seeing the calorie counts affect what you order when you eat at the fast food joint? Will you choose a different dressing for your salad at the chain restaurant? Do you think this will help you make better choices? Post your comments below (comments link) or on the Contact Us page.