Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Calorie sticker shock soon to end with HCR mandate

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 12:25 PM

Did you hear? Part of the health care reform bill includes a mandate that requires chain restaurants to include nutritional information on their menus. Hooray!

I think that's great. Yesterday, alone, I experienced calorie sticker shock twice ... but only because I researched the nutritional information of a couple of foods I planned to eat. (It's not like either restaurant offered any warning about the number of calories in their meals.)

I was in Uptown just before an event, and I was hungry. I walked around the block and made what I thought was a decent dinner decision. I stopped at Qdoba and chose a burrito off their menu. No cheese. No sour cream. No guacamole. No chips. No extras. Yes, their burritos are humongous, but I figured it couldn't be too bad. Rice, meat and vegetables in a wrapper, how bad can that be?

While eating, I used my smart phone to find out exactly how many calories were wrapped up in my flour tortilla. Guess how many? More than 800! For most people, that's almost half of their daily calorie allotment. Crazy.

Later, at Starbucks, I bought a small coffee. Into it I mixed fat-free milk and Splenda. Not so bad, right? No, but the Reduced-Fat Very Berry Coffee Cake I bought on impulse? That sucker just about cost me 320 calories. (I threw it away.)

It's easy to consume too many calories in our fast-paced world where processed foods are quick, cheap and ready to eat on every corner. That's why I'm one of the people who loves that fast food restaurants will soon post nutritional information on their menus. For those of us on a calorie budget — and who isn't? — that information will help us make better choices.

Hopefully, as people become more aware and vote for healthier meals with their hard-earned cash, restaurants will get the hint and stop adding bacon, cheese and sauce to everything.

Of course, we all know the best choices are usually found at your local farmers market and prepared at home.

Further reading: Calorie labels could lead to healthier food (Associated Press/ Charlotte Observer)

Some tips for eating healthier at fast food joints:

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