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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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You're the Expert

Today, I’m asking for your expert feedback. As consumers, I’d like to know if you think putting calorie info directly on restaurant menus and boards will help you make healthier choices? As you may know, this is exactly what the Big Apple has decided to do, and it’s stirred up a cornucopia of controversy.

Last December, the city's Board of Health ruled to require almost all chain restaurants (some 2,300 NYC outlets) to post what I call “the digits,” effective July 1, 2007. Supporters include the Center for Science in the Public Interest and opponents include the National Restaurant Association, but I'd like to hear your thoughts, particularly on the following issues:

-Do you think consumers generally know how to put calorie numbers in perspective? In other words, let’s say a meal provides 1,000 calories. Will consumers know how many calories per day they need (individually) in order to determine how much they’ll be “spending” if they choose that particular meal?

-What if you ordered differently (i.e. no mayo or no cheese…). Would having the
calorie number for the original version still be helpful to you?

-Do you see any downside to having those numbers there? Do you think people will
ignore nutrition in lieu of calories (i.e. order a lower cal, less healthy item
like a glazed donut for 180 calories over a higher cal, healthier item like a multigrain bagel for 380 calories)?

-If the numbers were there, would you tie calories to “value” in a different way? For example, if you saw that a large cola provides 310 calories and a medium 210, but the large was only 5 cents more, would you still get the large?

-How careful do you think people will be (if at all)? I've said it in the Diet Dish, but do you think people know that consistently being off by just 100 calories per day can keep an extra 10 pounds on a person’s frame?

-Do you think seeing those numbers will cause people to eat more consistently (i.e.
maybe not have that big country breakfast on the weekend)? Or, do you think consumers will become obsessed (in a bad way) with the digits?

-Is having numbers on a menu or board any different than having it on packaged
food label?

-Would you like to see more than just calories? How about saturated fat, trans fat,

-Will consumers actually take the time to add the numbers up (i.e. add their drink number to their entrée and side number for a grand total)? Will calculator sales soar or will American’s math skills greatly improve (OK, I’m being silly here).

-Or, do you think consumers will simply ignore the numbers altogether?

Please share your thoughts!
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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