Saturday, February 7, 2009

nutrition facts at restaurants?

imageSome states looking to require nutrition facts to be posted on all restaurant menu items raises the question: Is this really the best thing for Americans?  Charleston, W. Va is also considering a bill that will require their chain restaurants to post nutritional info on their menus in this recent article.


Obesity is definitely on the rise with an increase of meals and snacks eaten away from home going from 16 percent of all meals and snacks in 1977-1978 to 27 percent in 1995 (RLWG).  This is a big jump, considering that most meals eaten away from home usually aren’t the healthiest and have higher calories, sugar and fat.

At this time, the Restaurant Labeling Working Group (RLWG) does not recommend that the ADA support legislation that would require mandatory nutrition disclosure by restaurants. Instead, they recommend ADA support legislation that establishes a national nutrition labeling education campaign along with a comprehensive evaluation of nutrition labeling.

The reason for supporting a funded public educational campaign with any nutrition information disclosure policy lies in the fact that, for the most part, the general population does not understand food labels and healthy food choices are difficult without that understanding.

There are many points to consider with this issue, and I’m sure I’ll miss a few of them.  But, on a personal note I do not think nutrition facts need to be posted blatantly on menus, but should be easily available for those who wish to know the macronutrients of the foods they are eating.  I know I would definitely think twice about eating a whole plate of baked pasta if I knew how many calories were really in there!  I think it would give people that wish to know about and feel confident in the food they eat a way to gauge their intake for that day.  I also believe that there should be more general education about the labels so that the population would be able to put them to good use.  It is amazing to me how important nutrition is and there are many people that don’t know how to read nutrition labels (at no fault of their own), let alone interpret them for a healthier lifestyle.  There should be more legislation for national nutritional labeling education for sure.  This would greatly reduce health disparities in the future.  But, this is of course easier said than done. 

There is also another side of people that could care less about what they are eating because it tastes darn good and that’s all that matters.  They don’t want the calories of their meal staring them at the face, ruining their “fun,” and making them feel guilty.  What can we do about these individuals?  It is there right and their body to eat what they so choose, right? 

Many restaurants believe that posting the nutrition facts will hurt the sales of some of their items because they are seen as “less healthy” and people will be scared to eat them again.  It has been shown, as mentioned above, that many people don’t have the knowledge for interpreting labels so this shouldn’t matter, right?  But, in reality we as a society need to wake up and realize the importance of nutrition for our future health and the impact on the health care system, and shouldn’t hide it from consumers just because they are eating at a restaurant.  If consumers start eating healthier options and demand nutrition facts at restaurants then I think this should be pursued for the future health of everyone.

Here is a great resource for understanding the nutrition facts label from the FDA.


Whew!  Lots of sides to this heated topic.  I’m sure I’ve missed lots and I’d love to see your comments!

What do you think about posting nutrition facts on restaurant menus?   


Thinspired said...

This is such an interesting topic to me. I really believe in making the nutrition information readily available to those who want to know. As far as shoving it in their face, I agree that some issues come up. I understand that some people just want to have fun when they go out to eat, but with the obesity epidemic, it just seems that some people have no idea what they are putting in their mouth. It's one thing for someone knowledgable like yourself to splurge on something as an occasional treat. But there ARE people out there who literally don't know that the baked pasta dish is so unhealthy.
I don't believe in forcing people to do anything they don't want to do, but I think the information needs to be there for them to educate themselves and THEN make the decision that is best for them.
Great post!

Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point said...

i think restaurants should be required to present this information. when i was in NYC, i must admit dunkin donuts was "ruined" for me because i *knew* the calorie count for donuts, but that helped me make a healthier food choice, so YAY!!!