August 17, 2008

Survey Results: Calorie Labeling

The latest Small Bites survey asked visitors if they thought it should be legally required for all chain restaurants to display calorie information on their menus in all 50 states.

90 percent voted "yes," and 10 percent went with "no."

I say: "Absolutely!"

Opponents of calorie labeling tend to fall into two camps.

First we have the "thats' policing! Who are you to tell me what to eat?" camp, which is completely nonsensical.

No one is calling for foods to be banned or shrunk to less caloric versions.

All that's being asked is to provide customers with information that will help them make better choices, if that interests them.

Then we have the pessimists, who say, "what good is this going to do? Calorie information is available on packaged food and the obesity rate just keeps on climbing."

Except that calorie information for fast food items is more realistic because it assumes customers are eating the entire dish.

A bag of Doritos available at 7-11, for instance, lists information for just one third of the bag, even though the vast majority of people purchasing such an item finish the contents in one sitting.

Or, take pasta.

Most people throw their idea of a "portion" into a boiling pot, but don't really know if they are eating one, two, three, or four servings.

Same thing with breakfast cereals. Many of them list nutrition information for half a cup, and the average person fails to realize that they start their day with one and a half cup's worth (meaning they need to multiply that caloric value by three!)

It's too easy for "calories per serving" to be misconstrued or misunderstood.

If anything, some great developments are emerging from all of this. Dunkin' Donuts, for instance, has started offering sandwiches that clock in at less than 300 calories (up until now, their offerings started at the 400-calorie mark.)

No comments: