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Thursday, July 31, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 6/11/2006

Nutrition on the menu

As a country we keep talking about exercise and nutrition. Fat lot of good it does us.

Almost two-thirds of Americans are overweight; 30 percent are obese. And almost every week, it seems, new facts and figures are released to show why we're fat; what being fat does to us, and how we can be less fat.

No wonder it's beginning to look as though people are throwing their hands up and telling the government, health experts, and researchers of all stripes to leave them alone to enjoy this double whammy hamburger with extra cheese and a large fries.

Still, the latest study on how to fight obesity makes some salient points and would seem to be a painless and effective means of helping Americans cut the calories. Put together for the Food and Drug Administration, it suggests that restaurants offer lower-calorie menu items, list nutrition facts on menus, and sell smaller portions.

Using the premise that an educated consumer will make healthier choices, the ideas put forward by the FDA sound reasonable. After all, we read nutrition advice on labels of everything from cereal to margarine and most every other food we eat at home; why not the foods we eat in a restaurant?

Americans spent almost half of their food dollars on meals made and bought outside the home, and the favorites are - no prizes for guessing - hamburgers, french fries, and pizza. Although not necessarily at the same meal.

There's a cost to restaurants for providing nutrition information - it can be as much as $100 for a laboratory to count the calories in a single menu item - and the National Restaurant Association says the industry is unfairly targeted by the report.

Agreed, the change to calorie-counting menus would be an up-front cost, but isn't there an opportunity for increased business for restaurants that embrace more information for consumers and market themselves as providing healthier alternatives? A majority of the largest restaurant chains already offer some nutrition information.

And it's not a matter of targeting anyone, but of suggesting another way in which Americans' weight problem can be addressed,

The annual cost in health care of obesity in this country is about $93 billion, with risks that include diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, and cancer.

If helping customers make healthier and more informed choices about the food they eat can cut into that depressing statistic, then we look forward to reading menus that list nutrition values along with our choice of vegetables.



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