Across the country it’s becoming the norm. Calorie labeling at restaurants and fast food joints. Between the federal and state laws, it’s becoming impossible to deny that your favorite fast food burger has 1000 calories and probably isn’t the best food choice. And that’s what those laws are designed to do – help the masses make better food choices. But didn’t we already know those fat, juicy fast food burgers are bad for us?
If you see a donut labeled 400 calories, does that make you less likely to buy it than if didn’t have the calorie content on it? Or is it a case of “If Momma wants a donut, Momma is gonna get a donut”?
In September, NYC decided to take the labeling of calories (something that chain restaurants in NY have had to do since 2008) a step farther and ban the sale of drinks over 16oz. The thinking is if people drink smaller sodas they won’t be as fat. Much of the reaction was along the lines of “Why does big brother think they should be able to control how much soda I drink?” It does kind of seem like the government thinks we are all a herd of stupid people who have no idea that drinking huge quantities of soda is bad for the body. Seems to me if a person is drinking those big drinks without a thought to the calories, they will just order two smaller drinks. However, two smaller drinks usually costs more than one larger drink so perhaps money will be the deterrent. Maybe the NYC officials think people will be more worried about their pocketbooks than their waistlines!
Let’s get back to calorie labeling. Does it work? A 2011 Stanford study says that labeling calories at Starbucks resulted in consumers buying 6 percent less in calories compared to a store that didn’t have calorie labeling. Only 6 percent? Well it’s a start. I know that personally when I am standing in line at Starbucks and I see a muffin with a 410 calorie label staring me in the face, there is no way I am going to buy it. I’ll stick with my skinny, grande, low foam latte at 130 calories. For me the muffin was always a rare treat anyway, but it’s become even rarer with the calorie label.
But as usual, different studies have different results. Another 2011 study from New York University showed that calorie labeling had very little impact on total calories in a food order. People might notice the calorie count on the menu but they still order what tastes good.
Let’s face it. As a nation we have become addicted to high fat, high sodium, high calorie foods that are easy to find and cheap to buy. Families are busier than ever and it can be difficult to get dinner on the table after a long day without leaning on the drive-through window.
What is the solution? Ban fast food all together? Ban soda or make it a controlled substance? Or do we just need to somehow become a society that values our health more so we eat better food and move more?
What are your thoughts?