Healthful or Harmful? The Conflict over Calorie Counting

This past summer, New York City implemented a menu labeling law requiring chains with 15 or more restaurants to put calorie information on their menu or menu board. This “anti-obesity campaign” has affected more than 2,000 restaurants or 10 percent of the total in the City. Currently, next to the price you will find the calorie count of your meal. The goal of the campaign is to help manage the obesity epidemic that has plagued our country. But is it really going to work? How will it affect those who are not obese? Are we simply fostering a more calorie dependent, calorie obsessed society? Are we just catering to those who already calorie-count?

One consequence of the mandate is that it has forced restaurants to change the nutrient content of their menu items in order to lower the calorie count. Some restaurants have gone as far as to remove certain items all together. The legislation also hopes that consumers will alter their choices based on the calorie information. The theory is this will then lead to a lower calorie consumption and in turn help control our obesity epidemic.

It is easy to obtain the nutrient content of almost any food available with resources such as Calorie King; however, putting the information next to the price is quite different. One big problem is that we have added information without education. A meal outside the home is now stressful rather than enjoyable. The decision on what to eat is now based on the caloric content instead of hunger or cravings. Some people have even become afraid to eat certain foods. If you want a hamburger, you should eat a hamburger—otherwise all you will do is think about a hamburger until you have one…