Labels, Labels, Everywhere: Exposing Restaurant Nutrition Facts

What is inside

Exposing nutritional data at restaurants has been a highly contested topic for many years, especially in New York City.  In 2008, New York led the country in the fight against serving food to customers without access to nutritional information.  The city eventually passed a regulation requiring chain restaurants with at least 15 national locations  to display calorie information for standard food items on menus or in close proximity to the menus.

As you can imagine, the New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA) fought against the measures and lost.  Over the past few years, other states have begun implementing similar regulations.

In March of this year, congress passed the highly anticipated (and controversial) healthcare bill, which included a section outlining changes that will affect restaurants in all 50 states.  The new federal law specifies that nutritional information must be provided for restaurants that have at least 20 national locations.  With Michelle Obama spearheading nutritional overhaul in our country and with  “healthy” living in vogue, it’s not surprising that even the American Beverage Association (ABA) has agreed to place nutritional content on the front of soda cans, soda fountains and vending machines.

Originally, the National Restaurant Association wasn’t elated about the changes; however, they eventually released a statement praising the new provision. Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association president and CEO, stated, “We know the importance of providing consumers with the information they want and need, no matter in which part of the country they are dining. This legislation will replace a growing patchwork of varying state and local regulations with one consistent national standard that helps consumers make choices that are best for themselves and their families.”

It’s great to see our country finally taking responsibility for all the money wasted every year on obesity-related medical care.  While responses to the healthcare bill remain polarized, it seems that most could agree on this small victory – providing consumers with more information to make better decisions.  Although some studies have found that knowing the nutrition facts does not lead to making healthier decisions, it is still a step in the right direction. It may be a change that won’t inspire immediate action, but offerslong-term benefits instead.  Even if consumers aren’t changing their food choices, they can at least know what they are consuming.   Now, people can choose to consume an 850 calorie sandwich rather than gasp about the number after-the-fact.

Some might think that consumers should just know what’s healthy or completely avoid fast food all together. Well, the reality is that fast food is convenient, cheap and appeals to taste buds that have been well-prepped for the fat- and sodium-laden diet. And, many people truly don’t know what’s healthy.  It may be hard for the health conscious people to imagine, but I remember going to McDonalds and ordering a double cheeseburger value meal, not giving a second thought to nutrition.  Health and nutrition aren’t instinctive, they must be taught and learned. If health information was intuitive, health and nutrition articles would not have the popularity they currently hold.

Here are some more resources to help keep you informed about healthy living:

Portion Control

20 Salad Dressings You Can Make at Home

Fresh Veggies VS. Frozen and Canned

Tons of great-tasting healthy recipes!

What do you think? Should restaurants be required to expose nutritional information?

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