We Don’t Need (no stinkin’) Restaurant Menu Labeling Law!

I’ve eaten at Pizzeria Uno less than 5 times in my life.

One meal stands out in my mind because of how far off my estimation of calories were in their single serving deep dish pizza.

Since their claim to fame is their “Chicago-style deep dish pizza” that’s what I thought I’d order. I knew it wasn’t going to be a light meal or an under 300 calorie kind of lunch. I could have consulted the computer they had near the entrance to check the nutritional information, but I waited to do that until after I finished most of the pizza.

When I checked, here is what I saw:Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 9.51.45 PM

Would I have made that choice if I knew how many calories were in one little deep dish pizza pie considered to be one serving?

Yeah, I think I would, but I would have eaten far less of it. I didn’t have a clue that greasy, little pizza would have 2000 calories! It tasted okay, not great, and if I knew it was 2000 calories I probably would have eaten just a quarter of the darn thing. That would still be 500 calories!

Was I mad that there was no warning to alert me to exactly what the fat and calorie count was in the pizza?

No! Even if I never knew it wouldn’t have made any difference to my weight. I don’t eat there often. My healthy habits are pretty consistent and as such, they protect me from the occasional mistakes I make.

Do we need any more laws to protect us against ourselves? I don't think our founding fathers would support such legislation.

Do we need any more laws to protect us against ourselves? I don’t think our founding fathers would support such legislation.

That brings me to Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Act), that was signed into law on March 23, 2010.

It requires nutrition labeling of “standard” menu items for chain restaurants with 20 or more locations and “similar retail food establishments.” The Act directed the FDA to issue rules for the implementation of the menu labeling requirements by March 2011; as of July 2014 there is no final rule.

After reading how I was totally blindsided by my Pizzeria Uno pizza calorie count you probably expect me to love a menu labeling law.

I don’t. That’s not to say I don’t value the information; it’s the law I oppose.

I like laws that protect me from others doing harm to me. I don’t like laws that are supposed to protect me from myself.

 

The people driving up to the window have already ordered. The calorie information was displayed for every item on the menu. How many people adjusted their orders to reduce their calories?

The people driving up to the window have already ordered. The calorie information was displayed for every item on the menu. How many people adjusted their orders to reduce their calories?

Most people don’t care. How many people bother to read the Nutrition Facts on the foods they purchase at the supermarket?

Those who do care generally have healthier habits overall. As I already stated, I am one of them. The healthy habits allow me to make choices that support my weight-related goals. If I make a mistake, it’s too infrequent to have a negative effect on my weight. In other words, the occasional mistake has little effect on my weight or health because most of the time I’m making good choices.

I understand the goal but it won’t change people who don’t want to make changes.

I think that some people hope that it shames fatties into making lower-calorie choices. I can imagine a fatty hater standing behind a “person of size” and adding up calories as he or she orders a meal. I can picture the the unkind smirks, knowing looks, comments, and probably even loud, nasty rants.

Fatty-haters (“I don’t hate the person, it’s the fat I hate”) might think that even though they may not personally sink to such unkind behavior they might be delighted that fatties will order differently as a defensive measure.

I predict that some overweight people will take defensive measures, but it’s more likely to use the drive-through where nobody can be witness to what’s ordered. I also predict that this can bring on more self-loathing and potentially exacerbate unhealthy weights instead of bringing about positive and healthy behavior changes.

Some restaurants have voluntarily posted calories. Panera Bread, and McDonald’s are among them. I’m sure there are others, but these two restaurants are the two where I’m most likely to eat if I’m getting a take-out meal.

When the law actually goes into effect is still unknown. How it will affect the weight or habits of diners is also unknown. Considering that it was 1995 that the government enacted the nutrition facts law on all packaged foods and it didn’t slow or stop the growing incidence of obesity in the U.S.

If you care about nutrition and health you know enough about what to eat to be able to make good choices without knowing the exact calorie count.

If you care about nutrition and health you know enough about what to eat to be able to make good choices without knowing the exact calorie count.

I don’t see any reason to think calories on menus is going to do much either. Healthy weights can’t be legislated. The information won’t make a difference until people care to put it to use.

I think we’d gain more ground in losing more weight if the U.S. government launched a “I did it and so can you,” multi media campaign. People are losing weight and keeping it off and the more they share their success, the more they’ll inspire others to do the same!

Success stories give people hope. The more success we share with the general public the more success we'll see. This will reduce both incidence of adult AND childhood obesity!

Success stories give people hope. The more success we share with the general public the more success we’ll see. This will reduce both incidence of adult AND childhood obesity!

We need to let people know that little changes in eating and exercising can yield big results in overall health and reduced body weight.

 

 

 

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is the general manager of Weight Watchers of Maine. She is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. Her experience with her own weight management journey and raising girls has given her insight into the struggles families face with weight, healthy body image, food and physical activity. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news for more than ten years and appears monthly as a guest on FOX network morning program Good Day Maine.