Calories: Too Much Information?

Numbers, I'm starting to realize, speak much louder than words.

For instance, when there's a sign in a pastry case that says "Lowfat raspberry scone," I'm tempted to reach for it. But if that same sign reads, "Lowfat raspberry scone, 640 calories," I lose interest. Fast.

Calorie counting -- or make that, calorie accounting -- is becoming an increasingly hot topic as more states move to pass calorie label laws.

New York City passed calorie label legislation earlier this year as a move to wake up people who thoughtlessly consumed far more calories than they ever imagined. Health officials hope that calorie labels will steer people toward healthier choices, and ultimately reduce obesity and related illnesses, such as diabetes. Meanwhile, calorie label laws will take effect in Seattle and San Fransisco later this year, and other cities, such as Los Angeles, are considering following suit.

An article at MSNBC notes that calorie laws are indeed waking people up, whether they like it or not. For example:

  • A woman who routinely opted for a salad over a burger fries at a favorite restaurant learned that her salad contained 1,360 calories.
  • A group of young women at a chain restaurant were shocked to discover that the menu contained very few dishes under a 1,000 calories, while some of their favorites hovered near 2,000.
  • Fast food diners -- who knew they had a day's worth of calories on their tray -- learned that they'd seriously underestimated the number.

Clearly, ignorance is bliss and the truth is brutal for anyone who eats out (as I do) on a regular basis.

Still, I will personally welcome a little calorie reality check. I hope that smaller cities will also adopt similar legislation soon. After all, if I still want a scone once I know that it's got 640 calories and 18 grams of fat, then I'll get it. I'll just chalk it up as a guilty pleasure, and make it a point to eat fewer calories for the rest of the day.


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