My kids enjoy eating different kinds of foods and have a pretty good understanding of what constitutes a nutritious meal. However, once in the company of their peers, many of their lessons are quickly forgotten.
With that scenario in mind, I agreed with the New York City Board of Health’s decision last month to require all chain restaurants (with 15 units or more) in that city to post caloric data on their menus. Most of the larger chains already provide the menu items and nutritional information online, but the calories will be posted on store menu boards and menus beginning on March 31st.
The reality is that most of us do end up eating foods that are not as healthy or nutritious as we would like. Not all of us have the time or interest to read an online menu and nutrition facts to make a relatively informed decision. Personally, it would be much easier if I could go into a fast-food restaurant and see nutrition information before me--I wouldn’t be as stressed. More important to me now, I could use the occasions to show my kids why they don’t need the super-sized burgers or fries and suggest other options. Together, we could make impromptu decisions that make sense.
It is obvious the obesity epidemic in this country is largely due to a lack of education and information. Many consumers don’t know how to cook or what constitutes a nutritious meal. They don’t know how much exercise they really need. They don’t know how many calories to eat and, unfortunately, they don’t know how to control their portions.
Past experience proves education helped battle issues such as smoking, drunk driving and AIDS. Using this logic, an educated population is better able to combat obesity with easily obtainable facts and knowledge. Some objectors worry that the calorie information will turn people off, but I believe that is the decision of the consumer. Whether the nutrition information makes them cringe or not, all diners have the right to have all the facts in order to make an informed decision.
Ingredient suppliers can help food providers make better foods. Driven by flavor, ease of production and cost control, successful chains and establishments are simply giving customers what they want. If consumers decide they want more nutritious foods, then suppliers can help provide a range of positive attributes, such as low-fat, no trans fat, low-carb, high-fiber and/or low-calorie, among others.