Last week we wrote about the success of the soda tax in Oakland. In that blog, we wrote about our concern about the government controlling people’s choices through pricing. We want people to make healthy choices and applaud people for doing so. But we feel that it should happen because folks are given all the information and make the decision for themselves.
We like when we’re presented with data to make informed choices. When you have health goals, going to a restaurant can be complicated. But having nutritional information on the menu can help you make the best call for you. You know what you’re aiming for better than anyone else. Instead of removing unhealthy things from the menu, it leads to restaurants adding more healthy options and people picking what they want.
In 2018, the law changed, and restaurants with 20 or more locations had to add calorie counts to their menus in the U.S. A Tufts Univ. study estimated that 28,000 cases of obesity-related cancer were prevented by this act.
The lead author of the study, Mengxi Du, said, “It’s important for us to continue to show consumers, policymakers and industry how small changes can lead to big benefits.”
The researchers based their analysis off of data from the national nutritional survey. Based on the estimate of 28,000 cases of cancer, that would be about 16,700 deaths over the time period.
More research needs to be done on how people read menus. People from different educational and income backgrounds appear to interpret the information differently. If the info on the menu was a universal tool, it could help everyone make the right choice for them.
The menus don’t list sugar or saturated fat. However, having any information that helps you compare your options can be useful.
Other nutritionists don’t like calorie counts on menus for the way they can impact people with disordered eating. They believe there shouldn’t be guilt associated with ordering something high in calories.
“It’s kind of sad, too, to think of the nourishment, connection and/or joy might be lost from a person’s dining-out experience as a result of seeing what measured energy data happens to be associated with an appealing or favorite restaurant dish,” said registered dietitian Amanda Villescas.
We agree that it’s bad to demonize food and that you should enjoy your meal when you go out. However, having more information at your disposal is an incredible tool. Suggesting denying people the knowledge doesn’t make sense.