National Law Would Require Nutritional Information at Chain Restaurants

fast-food

It amazes me sometimes how a lot of people are totally clueless when it comes to what they’re putting in their bodies. My last post, for instance, demonstrated the evils of fast food, but so many people still eat that crap on a regular basis.

I think this population falls into three general categories: 1) Those that know what they’re doing but don’t care, 2) those that know but don’t think it really matters (i.e. “The chemicals are good for my immune system”), and 3) those that don’t know.

Of all of these, it’s those in #1 that are the hardest to “convert” to a healthy lifestyle. In fact, it’s nearly impossible. Those in #2 are doable, but it might take shock factor like a day watching Dr. Oz parade around dead, diseased body organs on Oprah. Those in #3 are the ones that need the most attention, and those that I frankly feel the most compassion for.

Somehow, though, I don’t think it would be taken very well if I went up behind them in the McDonald’s checkout line and smacked them upside the head, or did a running interception of their fish ‘n chips, clam chowder, and Coke before it touched down on their table.

I’d love to be able to educate or at least make all these people aware of what’s really in their food. But alas, I’m only one person, and I can only do so much.

So I was very pleased when I was recently in New York eating at Hard Rock Cafe and noticed that the nutritional information for every single item was printed on the menu. My co-worker and I sat down, perused the menu, and found that our selections were influenced by the calories, fats, proteins, carbs, etc. instead of solely by what our cravings were compelling us to to eat.

The salads that naturally many people would assume are healthy just because they’re salads, were clearly marked as having way more calories and fats than things like pulled pork sandwiches – surprising to most people that don’t realize that Caesar salads are not health food.

Btw-the pulled pork sandwich wasn’t bad, as long as you get the BBQ sauce on the side and side salad instead of fries, with vinaigrette dressing on the side. Even better if you can just ask for olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Anyway, I noticed all the big chains printed the nutritional info right on the menus. Even Starbucks clearly marked the little signs in front of the espresso brownies and pumpkin loaves.

Finally, I thought. People will have a little more awareness of what they’re actually eating.

I discovered later that this was the result of a law that was passed in New York which requires caloric information to be disclosed on chain restaurant menus. Some have gone farther and are disclosing detailed nutritional information as well. California was the first to pass a state-wide law that will require calorie counts for standard dishes to be disclosed on menus and menu boards as of July 1st. (Go Arnold!)

menuApparently a similar law was passed in Seattle, but either I’m totally oblivious or they haven’t begun enforcing it yet because I haven’t really seen it, besides at one or two restaurants. (Of those of you in Seattle, have you seen this happening? And if you’re not in Seattle, does your state, city, or county have a similar law?)

There is currently no national law that regulates whether chain restaurants disclose nutritional information, let alone standards around how it is disclosed. The result is a “patchwork” of different laws and rules, ultimately confusing the consumer. Hence, Congress is considering passing the “LEAN (Labeling Education And Nutrition) Act.”

According to the Coalition for Responsible Nutrition Information, the LEAN Act “would require restaurants, grocery stores and other food service establishments that serve prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to disclose in writing calories contained in each menu item directly on the menu, menu board or in designated alternative ways, such as a menu insert or a sign directly next to the menu board.”

I believe the law would also require more detailed nutritional information such as fats, trans fats, sodium, carbs, protein, etc.

It seems more and more people are concerned about what they’re putting into their bodies. This act is intended to help mitigate the obesity epidemic. While this probably won’t help the people in Category #1 (know but don’t care) or Category #2 (know but don’t think it matters), it’ll hopefully convert those in Category #3 (just don’t know) to my category: People who are becoming more and more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies and want to make smart decisions.

Would seeing detailed nutritional information on restaurant menus change the way you order?

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2 thoughts on “National Law Would Require Nutritional Information at Chain Restaurants

  1. I would really appreciate the nutritional info! I’m one of those freaks who will ask at a fast food chains, because often they have it available even if they don’t post it.

    Unless it’s a really really special occasion, I prefer to remain accountable so i can make up for lousy choices later in the week. Hard to do if you have to just guess how evil something is.

    And if it’s a really, really, special occasion, I’m probably not gonna celebrate it at a chain restaurant anyway! So bring on the information; I wanna know!

  2. Hi Crabby! Usually they have the nutritional pamphlets hidden somewhere behind the soda dispenser where it’s nearly impossible to find. And you’re right; it’s hard to guess how evil something is, becuase usually the most unassuming foods are the most evil!

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