Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

The problem with adding calorie counts to menus

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I know that I’m a little late to the game due to March being taken over by Nutrition Month. I still wanted to weigh in on the restaurant menu labelling debate as I think an important point is being missed here. On one side of the debate are those who state that consumers should be given the information on calories (and possibly other common nutrients of concern such as fat, sodium, and sugar) at the point of purchase. On the other side of the debate are those who cite studies showing that such calorie labelling doesn’t actually make an impact on customers purchasing decisions. I’m not completely sure which side of this debate I’m on. Part of me (the part that fancies myself to be a savvy consumer) likes the idea of having as much information as possible. Another part of me just wants to enjoy my occasional meal out without the guilt of knowing that it contains as many calories as I need in an entire day. However, many people eat out on a regular basis, not just occasionally, and they should be made aware of the calories in the food their eating.

My main concern with the calorie labelling is that it’s often inaccurate but many people do not realise this and take it as gospel. Many calorie counts are based on computer generated reports which are not as accurate as actually using a bomb calorimeter to determine the calories in a food. Even if bomb calorimeters are used, cooking is not an exact science and different amounts of ingredients used in a recipe each time it’s prepared may cause the calorie count to vary fairly significantly. I think that we need to relearn to pay attention to our bodies and pay less attention to numbers. Use calorie and nutrition labels to guide your choices but don’t be completely reliant on them. They are not to be trusted. Learn to recognise when you’re full (and not full to the point of discomfort, full to the point of satisfaction) and pay attention to how your body feels to gauge if you should be eating less or more. Also, cook meals at home more often and treat eating out as a treat.

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

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