I came across this utterly fucking chilling article today while reading about some waistline-pioneering US Senators who are trying to make calorie-labelling mandatory in chain restaurants. It's amazing how the 'common sense' healthy choices (bagel, salad, turkey burger) are significantly higher in calories than the guilty pleasures (sirloin steak, quarter pounder), and terrifying how easy it is to eat 6,000 calories in a day.
Calorie labelling is one of those issues that I'm kind of surprised doesn't have broader popularity. I mean, we all love that we can flip over a loaf of bread and see what's in it, and how much fiber, sugar and fat we'll be eating underneath our peanut butter or our smoked herring (ugh oh god denmark ugh god no). Why is this suddenly a bad idea to apply the same principle to restaurants?
As a political issue, what really surprises me is the lack of outrage over food contents, especially restaurant food. Ruby Tuesday's, an American chain restaurant, sells a turkey burger and baked potato meal that has fucking 1,500 calories. That's a lunch that has 3/4 of your obeso-units for the entire day. Does this restaurant consider that a remotely reasonable component of a healthy lifestyle? How are people not pissed off about this?
Or what about the fact that pretty much anything you make at home will have fewer calories than the same food at a restaurant? This website says that homemade chocolate chip cookies have 185 calories each. Fine, it's a treat, whatever. The same cookie at Starbucks has between fucking 400 and 610 calories. That's the same as a Big Mac.
I don't know enough about food science to know why the vast disparity exists, but surely Starbucks could reduce that calorie count if it wanted to. There needs to be some sort of public campaign to bring a bit of common sense to restaurant ingredients and portion sizes.
The problem is that restaurants have no incentive to make their foods actually healthy. They only have an incentive to make them seem healthy. You buy the Bran-Bomb Bagel for breakfast every morning thinking you're being all moderate and shit, you don't make the connection to your carb-dealer when you gain 10 pounds every year.
Opponents of calorie labeling schemes often make the argument that calorie information won't affect peoples' choices, and we should all be eating with our common sense, and have the salad instead of the cake, etc.
But as the above examples illustrate, common sense on food is hella fucking wrong half the time. And yes, everyone ordering the Starbucks cookie-monster knows it's bad for them, but they probably don't know how bad it is. I couldn't help taking a picture of a latte menu in New York, where calorie labelling is in effect, simply because I had no idea that a cup of hot, brown milk could possibly have 850 calories.
So citizens: Get pissed off. Starbucks hates you and wants you to jiggle your way to the grave. And senators: Pass this motherfucker already. Bring all 500-calorie snacks into the light! There is no principled defense, from the left or the right, for denying relevant information to consumers. And everyone else: Go bake some cookies. They're only bad for you if you buy them at Starbucks.