Will The New Health Bill Create a Leaner America?

Big Mac =    590 calories.   Chicken Sandwich from Panera =   470 calories.  Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino from Starbucks =   660 calories.

Did you know any of this?  You will now that Pres Obama has signed a new health bill that requires food chains to post calorie information in their stores and on their menus.   Check out the NY Times article HERE This more or less nationalizes a policy that New York City already has in place.  So in 2011, when you walk into McDonald’s, you’ll know that the Super Size Extra Value Meal #3 that you’re about to scarf down will set you back over 1000 calories!  You’re morning cup a joe?  If it’s a medium caffe latte from Starbuck’s, you’re starting your day off with a 272 calorie drink!

The million dollar question here is whether this new practice will influence people enough so that they change their eating habits.  It’s a tough one.  This bill is definitely a good start, but I wouldn’t call it a panacea by any means.

The way I see it is that there are several types of people when it comes to eating habits:

  1. The ignorant who don’t care
  2. Those who care, but are ignorant
  3. Those who are knowledgeable about food, but don’t care
  4. Those who are knowledgeable about food, do care, and make a strong effort to make healthy eating and living a part of their lives.

A bill like this will help out groups 1 and 2.  Groups 3 and 4 are already relatively knowledgeable about food and calorie contents, and either care or don’t.  For group 1, the people who don’t know and who don’t care may be shocked to learn how many calories they’re actually eating.  I suspect a very small percentage of this group may change their eating habits, but the majority won’t.  Why not?  Because motivation comes from within.  If those people aren’t motivated right now, a government bill isn’t going to instill motivation in them; it has to come from within.

Group 2 will be the biggest beneficiary of this new bill.  I personally (and I’m sure all of you do too) know many people who have a goal to eat better and become more healthy, but who just have no clue how many calories and what types of calories they’re eating on a daily basis.  I don’t have any studies in front of me, but I bet if you asked 100 people how many calories are in the above-mentioned McDonald’s meal, the average answer would be a good 30-40% lower than the actual.

For Group 2, this bill may be the small impetus that they need.  It may get their brain juices flowing.  They may go home and start researching calorie counts of different foods online.  They may begin to read the back of food packages for nutrition info.  They may research a particular food chain’s caloric information on its website prior to dining there (many food chains have this online already, and if they don’t, a third-party website usually does).  So this bill is certainly a step in the right direction.  It’s not going to change peoples’ lives, but it’s a step.  And, as Lao-tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Do you think this bill will influence people enough to change?



Filed under Food, Nutrition

6 responses to “Will The New Health Bill Create a Leaner America?

  1. Ted

    I wonder how this will affect the other smaller businesses that would be exempt. Perhaps it will drive traffic to other mom-n-pop places that, while as expensive calorically, it will be served with less guilt.

  2. thedynamiclife

    That’s an interesting point, Ted. Only time will tell. I’ll choose mom-n-pop over chains any day of the week.

  3. alyssa

    It’s about time. Ignorance is bliss and it’s going to be a lot harder for people to look away when they see these calorie counts. Another angle on this is a less obvious benefit to the consumer: The food chains are going to be forced to improve the nutritional value of their food. They’re marketing divisions know customers will be turned off when they see their favorite sandwich comes in at a whopping 850 calories. They’re going to have to figure out a way to lower the fat and calorie counts and make that product more marketable, which ideally means making it more nutritious. It’s a win-win for the consumer: more information and better products.

  4. thedynamiclife

    I completely agree Alyssa! Hopefully this is another step in the modern food revolution.

    “Scientia potentia est”
    (Knowledge is Power)

  5. I believe that giving the consumer the information she/he needs to make good choices should be a public policy focus. Whether the consumer makes the ‘right’ choice is irrelevant. Some consumers will and some won’t and some will some of the time. But keeping the calorie content and other nutritional values a ‘secret’ because we don’t really want to know insults our intelligence. Thanks for a thought provoking post.

    • thedynamiclife

      I absolutely agree with you, Lanette. As the old saying goes, You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it. Thus the best approach is to provide people with as much accurate and unbiased information as possible and ENABLE them to make educated decisions.

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