Yay! A judges ruling last week has allowed New York’s fast food restaurants to ignore posting calorie and fat counts on their menus. Basically, a pre-existing federal law takes restaurants that voluntarily provide this information off the hook. As long as they provide nutritional information somewhere–on tray papers or Web sites, for instance–they cannot be restricted in how they comply with city law.

Thank goodness. As I’ve said in earlier posts (here, and here), nothing is dumber than the government stepping in where individual discretion is warranted. Do we really need the government to tell us what’s junk and what’s real food? Please. All that would do is hurt businesses that provide a product the public wants–junk food. And it takes the responsibility away from the individual. We’ll never see an increase in national health until people become responsible for theirs, plain and simple.

Interestingly, this is being proved by yet another recent study. Researchers have found that people consistently underestimate the calorie content of foods served at restaurants they consider healthier, like Subway, for example. In the study, researchers asked people who had just finished eating at Subway or McDonalds to estimate how many calories they had just consumed. On average, Subway diners underestimated their calorie intake by 151 calories–that is, they mistakenly believed they were eating less calories by eating a 12-inch turkey sandwich than by eating a Big Mac, although both have exactly the same amount of calories. What this then led to was the Subway diners ordering more sodas and cookies than the McDonalds diners, giving them actually more calories overall. This meant that, on average, Subway diners wound up consuming 1,011 calories, compared to 648 calories for the people eating McDonalds. Whoa. Get it? People make assumptions about food, and these assumptions lead to poor food decisions.

But wait, if calorie and fat content is posted won’t it lead to people making better decisions? Not necessarily, because only fast food restaurants would be required to post such information (more on this concept here). So, in my opinion, people will go to the local Whole Foods and pig out because they assume it’s healthier. Should Whole Foods then post calorie content? How about Spago? I’ve got a better idea: How about understanding two basic principles instead:

  1. Fast food is junk that should only be eaten periodically
  2. How much one eats is as important as what one eats

Got it? Eating too many carrots, falafel, or soy veggie burgers is just as detrimental to the health as an occasional Big Mac. True, carrots have a greater vitamin and nutrient content, but people aren’t using this as their criteria yet.

I just don’t see calorie reporting at fast food restaurants as being the answer, and worse, I think it will lead people down the wrong road. Just understand the basics about food, and practice prudent principles. Don’t know what they are? Get yourself a copy of The Six Keys to Optimal Health–it’s all in there–and you’ll be sure to make the right decisions.

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