It’s Not Nice To Label…Or Is It?


With the Obamas on the healthcare case, Americans may find themselves thinking twice before ordering a Frappuccino or coffee cake at Starbucks.

Buried deep within the Presidents health care reform bill there lays a mandate which requires big food chains to come up with the goods on their goods.

This new federal law obligates restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets to disclose calorie counts on their food items. Along with this information they will supply information on how many calories you should eat – if you’re considered a ‘healthy person’.

We’ve gone back and forth on the subject of restaurant labeling at A Weight Lifted. I think Marsha has been less a proponent than myself (she can defend this notion later ;-)), but I’ve always felt there’s merit in enlightening consumers about how many calories might be in more high risk items.

Here are some of the considerations up for discussion:

  • The average Joe simply doesn’t have the capability to discern calories in much of what they eat. Particularly, with portions so large and high fructose syrups and saturated fats so high. 
  • Getting folks to focus on calories, numbers and labels further encourages consumers not to use their intuitive ability to feel what’s going on in their belly’s and in their brains, regardless of what a label tells them.
  • Our food source in the country is a problem. Portions are too big, high fructose syrups and saturated fats too high – stop the insanity!

Where do you fall on the issue of government mandates  on calories counts? Gone too far? Not far enough? Will such a mandate help us to lead healthy lives?

9 responses to “It’s Not Nice To Label…Or Is It?”

  1. Melissa says:

    I fully support this effort. Ignorance is bliss and Americans DON’T know enough about what they’re eating. I’m not sure knowing would change the decision to eat said food, but at least we’d be providing them with the tools to make better decisions.

    Maybe a donut will become a “think” food vs a “go” food; an occasional treat vs. a every-morning affair.

    I believe knowledge is power.

  2. I agree with informing consumers! One thing I have been thinking about lately is how we’re programmed to trust those who feed us, starting with our own mothers. So there’s that part of us that wants to trust the “food industry.” And we can’t…

  3. Cindy says:

    I agree that knowledge is power, Melissa. This is the side I typcially fall on. However, Karen is so right when she suggests we all too often trust what we see and read. A label, advertisment, or commerical rarely tells the whole story, but our inclination is still to believe.

  4. Jaime says:

    IMHO, food manufacturers should have to disclose what’s in their products, and that information should be made available to customers at the restaurant level. What’s the harm?

  5. Marsha says:

    My only worry is that calorie information continues to focus people on just that — calories — and not on how they feel after eating something. That’s gotten us as a society into some big problems, e.g., most of the women who come to Green Mountain are so disconnected from their internal cues for eating because they have depended on diet rules which have as their basis calorie info, that they really don’t know how to eat anymore. If we want to give people information about what they eat, I vote for information about ingredients, not how many calories they contain. Ingredients tell us much more about whether foods are supportive or not. And paying attention to them would ultimately lead to better health as we’d be looking at the quality of our food instead of the quantity.

  6. Cindy says:

    yes, i’m torn. i do wonder if the average person on the street might find it more beneficial to see how the ingredient information on a label translates. better education overall would be wonderful — beginning in school. with so many cutbacks, do they even teach nutrition anymore? if so, i wonder what the typical american nutrition class looks like these days.

  7. I agree in one way or another with all the comments. At first, I was torn because we do deserve to know what we’re putting in our mouths. And knowledge is absolutely power. On the other hand, focusing on calories is limiting, and it encourages calorie counting, which I’m not a fan of at all.

    I really love Marsha’s points, so I don’t think I’m torn anymore. 🙂 So well put and insightful! Again, we’re focusing on numbers (like we do on weight in this society, not healthy habits, which deserve the focus instead of pounds), instead of digging deeper. What’s the food made of? What about the nutrients? Some foods, for instance, may contain more calories but they might be better for us, because they aren’t processed or again contain more nutrients.

    Marsha’s points about focusing on intuitive eating and quality over quantity are key!
    .-= Margarita Tartakovsky’s last blog post..Defining Eating Disorder Recovery: A Q&A with Expert Sarah Ravin =-.

  8. Kerry says:

    This is a really great discussion, and there are a lot of considerations. I do tend to lead toward food labeling for ingredients, calories, and other key figures such as saturated fat and fiber. For people managing individual health conditions (food allergies, heart disease, diabetes, etc.) this information will help them to make choices that are compatible with their dietary needs.

  9. cindy says:

    I agree that as Americans we don’t like anyone telling us what we can and cannot do. But I worry that this privilege has turned into arrogance, which in turn has fed our ignorance and ultimately kicked us in our unhealthy behinds.

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