Don't feel dejected, eating at home is the best way to manage a healthy eating plan. Studies show eating out is too easy and our lack of impulse control has serious health consequences for the nation. The government blames our behavior at restaurants for the increase in obesity.
"Americans now consume about one-third of their total calories on foods prepared outside the home," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. and according to the Restaurant Association, they spend 45 percent of their food budget dining out. The Center for Disease Control has linked obesity to the propensity of Americans to eat in restaurants where portions are large .
Expect smaller portions in the future. Your government is looking out for you and starting sometime in 2012, you are going to be able to count every calorie you put in your mouth at a chain restaurant. FDA regulations passed in March, 2010, for restaurants with twenty or more locations under the same brand name, require that they provide calories on the menu. Nutrition information for fat sodium and sugar must be made available on request.
There have been recent challenges as to whether or not the expense that will go into adding calories to menus is worthwhile. A study led by an NYU School of Medicine investigator and published in the February 15, 2011, Advance Online Publication, International Journal of Obesity, shows that even when the calorie count is obvious, diners do not alter their food choices. The study said the main reason teens make food choices is for taste.
Referencing a Seattle study at Taco Time, leader Eric Finkelstein, PhD, at Duke-NUS, said: "The results suggest that mandatory menu labeling, unless combined with other interventions, may be unlikely to significantly influence the obesity epidemic." Researchers reported, "We were surprised that we could not detect even the slightest hint of changes in purchasing behavior as a result of the legislation.”
That said, the new policy which is part of the Obama health care initiative, will be enacted. The Seasons52 Restaurant is ahead of the pack and makes a point of telling the consumer that no item on their menu is more than 475 calories. But one item a meal does not make, and you could easily consume your daily calories allotment at dinner. The three course menu is history.
Going out to dinner is still an event which means treating yourself to more calories instead of less. We add alcohol, appetizers and dessert that we may not consume when eating at home. There is no law on the books yet that the consumer has to choose the low calorie option from the menu. And at movie theaters, you can still eat all the buttery popcorn and candy you want because they are exempt from the regulation. You can drink as much booze as you want, too, because alcohol is regulated by a different agency.
Maybe over time calories on menus will change our behavior, but for now self control is more important.