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calorie counts
fast food chains
battle of the bulge
shareholder value
questionable results
prime reason
calorie count
caloric intake
Menu Calorie Counts – Do They Help?
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Menu Calorie Counts – Do They Help?

Following the law passed in New York in 2008 requiring restaurants to display the menu calorie counts a number of surveys show mixed results. On the positive side roughly one in six people paid heed and reduced their caloric intake by an average of 106 calories per meal. This result, however was somewhat negated by a survey conducted in 2009, which showed people consuming more calories.

Experts have proposed a couple of reasons for this apparent failure over time, which they hesitate to admit was a failure. The primary reason, in their view, is that there was no standard in how the calorie count had to be displayed on the menu. The argument is that if the font size was the same as that of the food it would be given more attention. As many New Yorkers can testify the calorie information, tucked away in a smaller font, does not always jump off the menu.

Another prime reason given for what appears to be, but is not admitted to be, a negative overall result is how the positive effects of the law were successfully circumvented by Subway. Apparently the promotion of large portions turned the previously achieved one in six victory of reduction in calories to an increase of nearly one fifth. I guess in the mad rush to “maximize shareholder value,” multi-billion dollar corporations will insure they are not the losers in the battle of the bulge.

Don’t, for a minute think that I am in any way trying to discredit the New York Health Department or the Obama administration in attempts to stave off the growing problem of obesity. Public health experts report that this epidemic has reached gargantuan proportions with fully a third of adult American’s and 17% of their children suffering from obesity. My concern is how effective will it be when Subway has already demonstrated how easy it is to delicately side step such legislation.

Menu calorie counts are burgeoning despite the questionable results of the New York experiment. Over 200,000 fast food chains in the USA will soon include menu calorie counts as a result of President Obama’s healthcare bill. The UK has jumped on the bandwagon and the 32 signees include fast food chains MacDonald’s and KFC.

When major fast food chains, who by the very nature of their products cannot seriously be too concerned about health issues, voluntarily agree to a move towards improving health I get a tad suspicious. It appears to me to be a free ride on a massive subliminal advertizing campaign, which says, “See, we are alright, we really do care.”

Another problem with menu calorie counts is that it tends to distort the whole concept of eating healthy foods. For sure, calories are a very important part of the equation. But much more crucial is from what source those calories are consumed. I, for one, will continue to seek to fulfill my daily caloric intake from healthier sources than a drive-in.

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