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State legislation would require restaurants to post calorie content of meals in plain view

Original post made by Checkout on Feb 7, 2007

This press release was submitted by State Sen. Carole Migden:

SACRAMENTO—New legislation introduced by State Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) may revolutionize the way Californians eat when dining out—and help combat our perennial battle of the bulge. It's a battle we appear to be losing: 64 percent of Americans are now overweight.
SB 180 would require chain restaurants to post calorie content about their meals in plain view on restaurant menus and menu boards so customers can make informed decisions before ordering meals. A chain restaurant is defined as five outlets in California or one in the state but at least 10 total outlets in the U.S.
"Californians need to know the calorie content of their meals to make healthier decisions about the food they consume," said Migden. "There's no denying the link between overeating fatty foods and obesity. We're spending nearly half of our food dollars outside our homes while obesity rates have risen 100 percent over the last 10 years. Health planners and policymakers are trying to influence eating habits to curb diabetes rates and skyrocketing health-care costs."
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 12 percent of Americans eat a healthy diet.
Our fast-paced lifestyles, combined with the prevalence of affordable, convenient fast-food outlets, have led to greater reliance on restaurants to feed our families. With our current system of voluntary labeling, it's difficult for people to make informed decisions about what they eat. Increased caloric intake has been directly linked to people eating out more frequently. Studies have found that children eat almost twice as many calories when they eat at a restaurant than at home.
Currently most restaurants do not provide nutritional information about their meals. Many restaurants post nutritional information on their websites which, while helpful in theory, is unworkable for many people at "point of purchase" who face a menu with no nutritional information provided.

Comments (4)

Posted by Angela Hey, a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Apr 17, 2007 at 11:28 pm

This is a great law - I'm all for it - but I think its hard to measure - so caveat emptor may be better - do we really need to government to prevent us from the danger of overeating - I was amazed how many calories a Vente Soy Latte was at Starbucks until I asked to see the calorie book.

The best thing one can do is write down everything you eat then show it to a spouse at the end of the day - or use a diet tracking program on a PDA or cellphone. Just writing it down prevents you from having the extra cookie.

Some years ago we spent time at the Pritkin Center and my husband heard a lecture on dining at restaurants without putting on extra calories.

One question to ask is:
Have you put oil or butter on the meat/fish?

You'd be amazed - I asked this of some calamari - it had been soaked in oil, covered in butter before grilling then topped with olive oil before it was to be served - fortunately I managed to avoid the last two dousings in fat by asking the question.

Another trick is to eat salad instead of getting a bread basket.

A fish stew kind of dish is often not very fatty.

Things like salmon or steak that can seem reasonable are often marinated or given sauces containing fats.


Posted by Diana, a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2007 at 9:57 am

One big plus for this bill is this: If restaurants had to post the calorie contents of meals, they'd be more likely to reduce portion sizes. The heaps of food dished out by these chain restaurants for single orders is gross, bordering on obscene.

Studies have shown that portion sizes in American restaurants have grown in the last few decades, and -- guess what -- so has the girth of Americans. When I travel and am forced to eat at some of these restaurants, I am appalled by the portions, and feel terrible about wasting the food that I have to leave on my plate.

If people were aware that the plate of steak and potatoes they order contained 2,000 calories, perhaps they would start pressuring restaurants to reduce the amount of food that arrives on the plate.


Posted by Miss Picky, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 19, 2007 at 11:06 am

Anyone who patronizes a McDonald's knows they are doing their body a grave disservice, with or without a calorie count.

I'd much rather know the origins of my entree than the number of calories. Is it processed? Is is fresh? Is it local? Was it sustainably or humanely raised and/or slaughtered?

All calories are not created equal, and to assume that a number is going to aid Americans in eating healthfully and sensibly seems naive. Fat calories from partially hydrogenated oil are not the same as fat calories from olive oil, avocados or tree nuts.


Posted by Eatin Good in the Neighborhood, a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2007 at 12:12 pm

If restaurants limit calorie counts by decreasing portions, they won't neccessarily cut prices. Instead of demanding that restaurants give us less bang for our buck, you can always, i don't know, not eat all the food that's put down in front of you.
Restaurants have these contraptions called "boxes" that you can put food in and take home.
I agree the portions can be obscene, but last time I checked, the Applebee's staff isn't cramming french fries down anyone's throat -- people are doing that to themselves.


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