Knowing What You Eat

24 Jun

So I was recently in New York for a ‘bee wedding and also to visit my sweet friend, Mina and a college friend.  I noticed as I was walking around the city that every single food item was labeled with the number of calories it contained.  Even the hotdog carts listed the calories associated with each of their treats.  

Source

I really paid attention, but this was an entirely new concept for me.  I come from the land where we top the charts for 5 of the fattest cities.  I know that labeling nutritional information isn’t a new concept since so many of the prepackaged food items we purchase contain this, but on menus and at fast food restaurants where we tend to forget about the nutritional value of the items we consume, it seems like a great idea. 

However, this initiative began in July 2008, and the results are in–sadly, they aren’t finding any significant changes.  In fact, there seems to be a slight increase in the number of calories people are consuming.  The study was conducted by NYU and Yale, and they tracked customers at four fast-food chains — McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken in poor neighborhoods of New York City where there are high rates of obesity.  Although about half of the people surveyed said that they saw the calories listed, and 28% of those that saw them said they influenced their choices, their receipts indicated otherwise. 

Is it because people are bad at math?  Are they only calculating a portion of what they’re actually consuming?  Or do people just not care?  Or, probably more likely–it’s really difficult to change people’s behavior.  I realize that if you’re eating at any of the above mentioned fast food restaurants, you probably aren’t super health conscious, but when the 1200 calorie combo meal is staring you in the face, how do you say yes?

However, the impact of this public health campaign shouldn’t be ruled out yet.  The city of New York is conducting their own study that will include about 12,000 receipts (as opposed to the 1100 the other study relied on), so it will be interesting to see what those results indicate.  I doubt Texas will adopt this strategy, but we need to do something.

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3 Responses to “Knowing What You Eat”

  1. Mina 06/24/2010 at 9:06 pm #

    aawwww, you think i’m sweet? really?? oh that’s so nice of you! oh wait what was this post about…that’s really sad that it hasn’t changed people’s choices that much, although hopefully the larger study demonstrates that there has been some kind of change. has texas considered anything like higher taxes on certain foods? i know those ideas are being batted about all the time here.

  2. Creature Gorgeous 06/25/2010 at 5:06 pm #

    I am LOVING the new format of your blog!!!!!

    But back to the post. DC is imposing a sin tax on items such as soda and will likely do the same with other things like maybe fast food or chips. I’m not sure how I feel about it, because I think people should regulate themselves without aid. I think campaigns are the way to go, but they need to be really spectacular to be effective. And that’s expensive. Good post.

    • kelsey@mintedlife 06/28/2010 at 11:47 am #

      I totally agree, and it just takes time. The initiative hasn’t been out long, and the impact is likely to trickle in. It will be interesting to watch. I think probably the bigger thing is convenience and cost. If people can find healthy food cheap and fast, I think it will take off.

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