Valdosta Daily Times

What We Think

April 2, 2010

What We Think: Will calorie counts help?

VALDOSTA — In the battle against obesity as part of the government’s new health care initiatives, all restaurants will soon have to show consumers the calorie count of every single item on their menus.

Do you really want to know that a Big Mac has nearly 700 calories? Or that delicious coffee drink you get from Starbucks can set you back more than 500 calories? Are Americans really going to be shamed into eating less than they do now?

In cities like New York, where calorie counts on restaurant menus have been mandatory for years, studies have shown some impact on eating habits, but not a dramatic shift. Apparently while some people might be deterred from grabbing that juicy steak or cheese fries by the calorie count, others still order them because they want to eat what they want to eat.

If people always followed the recommendations of the government and health experts, smoking, drinking, and overeating would have dissappeared long ago. But as long as people exhibit typical human behavior and exert their free will to do as they please, regardless of the repercussions, then the government can mandate all the warnings they want to with minimal impact. People have so few choices these days over how to live their lives that bad habits will continue to thrive as one of the last areas someone can be defiant without being arrested for it.

So perhaps when calorie counts on menus is a universal practice nationwide, there will be a decrease in obesity. But until restaurants pare down their portion sizes and Americans become used to eating less, it’s doubtful this plan will have a huge impact on the average waistline.

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