The average American, according to the Calorie Control Council, consumes over 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving, along with the average holiday weight gain rolling over year after year.
This is in a country where
27 percent of the population was already obese as of 2013.
These statistics, along with the food-centric holiday season, suggest that the time is right to tackle the U.S.’s overeating disorder, and new FDA guidelines aim to do just that.
One suggestion to curb the U.S.’ increasing girth is to require calorie labeling at a number of restaurants, vending machines, movie theaters and other retail outlets across the country, as well as online, according to the guidelines.
At first, this makes sense because Americans now consume a third of their calories outside the home, according to the FDA. However, there are also a number of aspects surrounding the obesity problem that this approach misses.
For one, meals at home are still important and not as easily controlled by federal guidelines. Unfortunately, Americans still do not get vital nutrients from their home-cooked meals, as they tend to spend too much money on junk food and not enough on whole foods, according to the USDA.
Home-cooked meals are, after all, only as healthy as the ingredients used to make them, and with many Americans relying on convenience foods to make “home-cooked” meals, restaurant-style problems often follow them home.
Calorie counts also ignore nutrition in favor of numbers. For instance, a spoonful of peanut butter has a few more calories than a spoonful of Nutella and often a good deal more fat. Obviously, peanut butter is healthier, but trumpeting calories over actual nutritional value can cause consumers to lose sight of that reality.
In fairness, the regulations do require that restaurants provide full nutritional information upon request, but the idea of eating out at most restaurants nowadays is to save time. Thus, many Americans won’t request extra information during their
30-minute lunch break.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in the guidelines is that there is some evidence to suggest that listing calories does not actually change consumption patterns, although some restaurants started cutting calories before the FDA regulations were formally unveiled.
A Johns Hopkins’ study that revealed restaurants cutting an average of 60 calories from their 2013 menu items seems to indicate a pre-emptive strike against the now-forthcoming regulations. In this way, it seems that addressing restaurant culture is a decent first step in dramatically shifting the U.S.’s relationship with food.
Restaurants and other vendors that have not already changed voluntarily have been given one year to adapt, and it will be interesting to see how U.S. consumers respond. Most of the information has been available online from various restaurants such as Wendy’s for years, but looking up the nutrition data certainly takes time that many Americans just do not have.
With an extra level of convenience worked into the system, maybe Americans will start to think twice about what they eat and drink.