A few days ago several news papers including the Washington Post, reported that California will start requiring chain restaurants to put calorie counts on their menus. The deadline is mid 2011 and restaurant chains (with more than 20 locations) will have to list the calories, saturated fat, carbohydrates, and sodium in each item.
This is a good start but again shows how wrong we are in our society regarding public policy and overweight. First of all, this targets chain restaurants only and not all of the restaurants where people eat or overeat. In addition most chains already list this data somewhere in their store or on the web. All in all, even with it available, their patrons do not read it, so posting it is a good start.
Second, what we really should be tracking is carbohydrates, protein and total calories, instead of their planned items to track (I plan as a near future blog topic to discuss why a calorie is not a calorie is not a calorie – stay tuned). I believe it is our societal belief in low fat or no fat in the last 30 years that got our society into this mess in the first place.
Brian Wansink, a food researcher from Cornell, gave a talk at a conference I was at last year. He found that persons who ate at McDonalds estimated they ate poorly and consumed lots of calories. They were right. Unfortunately, those who ate at Subway greatly underestimated the calories they ate as Subway had the perception of being a “healthy” restaurant.