Eating by numbers

You may have already begun noticing it—those numbers listed on your receipt from some of your favorite restaurants. No, they are not the prices, but rather the calories of what you are eating.

You may have already begun noticing it—those numbers listed on your receipt from some of your favorite restaurants. No, they are not the prices, but rather the calories of what you are eating.

Obesity is a growing problem in the United States. Both children and adults are suffering from obesity and, in turn, a number of diet fads and food trends have emerged to try to get people to eat healthier. Avoiding obesity and at least attempting to eat healthier has become almost an obsession to Americans. The latest attempt in defeating obesity is menu labeling.

Menu labeling consists of putting the amount of calories in that particular item next to it on the menu. On April 1, the Food and Drug Administration released a proposal that would require chain restaurants to display caloric information.

Many places across the country, such as California and King’s County in Washington, already display caloric information. As some may have noticed, there are a few places in Portland that display the information, including Chipotle, Romano’s Macaroni Grill and Burgerville. Burgerville, however, does not list their caloric information on the menus, but instead on their receipts.

From a broke college student’s perspective, going out to eat is rare, and when it happens you are generally pretty committed to that restaurant, usually because you are craving something specific. If I go into Chipotle, I am not going to change my order due to the calories listed on the menu. I may feel guilty, until I actually eat the food, and then the guilt is replaced with sweet satisfaction.

Burgerville does not list their calories on the menus, rather on their receipts. Therefore it is not until after you have purchased your food that you realize exactly the amount of calories you are eating. Then what are you supposed to do, throw away the food and order things that look less appealing but are healthier? If I want healthy then the last place I go to is a fast-food restaurant.

Having the calories listed on the receipt is like a giant slap in the face. It is like saying, “Look, this is what you paid for; you just bought yourself some clogged arteries and an early grave.” No one wants to see that, especially after they have already paid for the food. What are they supposed to do with it then, make better decisions next time?

If the caloric display on menus law goes into full effect across the nation, then a lot of restaurants are going to have to make and print up entirely different menus. That is a waste of money for the restaurants. If they are that concerned about people’s health, then they could invest that money for food that is healthy instead of spending it on telling customers the food is unhealthy.

America is fat, there is no denying that, but this unhealthy obsession about America’s growing obesity is not getting us anywhere. Yes, it is important that this situation is addressed, and it is important that people are aware of what they eating, but all of this energy could be used toward actually creating healthy food options for people.

Listing calories on menus is not going to solve the problem. It will not deter people from eating at the restaurant and will probably only rarely result in people choosing a healthier option. This is just essentially busy work; it makes America feel like it is doing something to face the obesity problem.

It would be beneficial if more restaurants invested in healthier food options rather than new menus to explain what is healthy and what is not in their restaurants. It would also be beneficial if people actually took the time to look at what they are eating. If people do not want to look at the caloric options then they do not have to; it is not going to change the way people think of the food in their favorite restaurants. ?