Written by Joe Suppes

Eating out is a fairly American tradition.  It’s one of the most standard forms of celebration, whether it’s for your kid’s Little League win, your grandma’s birthday, your sister’s engagement, or the fact that you survived the work week.  We, as a nation, generally like to eat out.  This is one of the greatest traps for our health, too.  Even people who are health-conscious in the home may decide to binge a little when eating out.  Lawmakers on state and local levels, however, are contriving ways to combat this trap.

Taking Steps

California has been in the news quite a bit lately for their legislation on food menu labeling.  This new law, enacted on July 1st, states that fast food restaurants must post calorie counts on their menu boards.  In addition, chain restaurants must post calorie counts, as well as some addition information, in their menus.  The next phase of California’s health movements is to try and phase out the use of man-made trans fats.  These steps, as well as others, are also being pursued in other places like New York City and several counties across the nation.  Some other states are also in the early process of drafting similar bills.

Benefits, Obvious and No-So-Obvious

There’s some obvious reasons why this is great.  Now, people who use calorie-counting as a part of their healthy lifestyle can more easily plan for eating out.  However, there’s a shock value involved, as well.  Many people assume that eating that chicken and fish options are so much healthier.  However, manditory nutrition info postings on menus can help clear up the myths about “healthy” fast food, as well as the “light” options at chain restaurants.

Some Shocking Facts

For instance, did you know that the tuna salad subs at Subway generally have the more calories than a roast beef sub from the same place?  It’s the mayonnaise.  Even light mayo will jack up the calorie and fat count to be equal to or greater than that of beef.  And those fish sandwiches at Burger King that seem like such a healthy option?  They’re fried, which means they’re riddled with trans fats.  A better option would be the grilled chicken sandwiches (without sauces and cheese).

Some People Won’t Change

There will always be people who don’t care.  The farmer I do side jobs for during busy seasons shocked me by stating that he thinks it’s a bad idea.  His take is that “people who eat fast food generally don’t care anyways.”  I can’t help but think he has a warped view of the issue (and I promptly told him so).  There’s a degree of manipulation by the restaurant industry.  Even nice sit-down restaurants may cut some corners on their “light” menus.

The Facts Speak for Themselves

I can’t see a single way that this would be a bad idea.  If someone doesn’t care about the nutritional content of their food, then they can ignore the numbers.  Maybe some people who are in denial of their eating habits will see the light.  Health-conscious people will also get the benefits of having more knowledge of the options, and we all know that knowledge is power.  Knowing these facts about our food is a big step towards acting to create better habits as a culture.

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