Point of View: Chew on this: Tell me what I am eating

By Molly Dunn

There’s something about knowing exactly what is in my food that makes me want to eat it even more.

When restaurants display the number of calories or carbohydrates in what they are selling, it’s comforting to know that they want me to know what is in their food.

States such as New York and California have required their chain restaurants to display calories on their menus.

With more and more people eating on the go in their hectic lives, more chain restaurants throughout the United States should display their nutritional information for all to see.

Yes, many restaurants have notes on their menu saying, “Ask an employee for nutritional information,” but who is actually going to ask a cashier “how many calories are in this sandwich?” or “can you tell me how many grams of fat is in this entrée?”

For many, knowing the nutritional information of a meal is not something they want to discuss with a random stranger.

Not only do people not want to ask an employee about the nutritional information in what they are ordering, but many people will not think about the nutrient content in their meal.

Placing the nutritional information next to a menu item is not only more convenient for customers, but is also eye-opening to many.

When we can compare menu items and make a healthier decision in what we will eat that day, the health in America is bound to improve.

However, just displaying calories will not have a lasting effect on America’s health. What we need is more healthy options added to our menus.

Seeing that a whole Frontega Chicken Hot Panini at Panera Bread has 860 calories means nothing to me when I can’t substitute it for something healthier than a house salad.

As the federal government works toward having all chain restaurants with at least 20 active units display the calories in their menu items by 2012, those creating and implementing the law need to encourage healthier choices to be added to menus.

For a short time, people’s choices at restaurants will be affected by seeing the amount of calories in a certain item, but after a while, old habits will kick back in and people will disregard what is before their eyes.

The best way to change the health status of America and to counter obesity is to offer healthier or modified choices.

Rather than having a plain salad or a boring turkey sandwich be the healthiest item on a menu, restaurants should offer meals with fresh, organic and all-natural ingredients.

As of March 24, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. now offer turkey burgers with fewer than 500 calories each.

Even fast food restaurants famous for their greasy and fattening burgers have marketed towards a more health-conscious group of individuals.

If more burger joints and fast food restaurants begin to offer options such as a grilled sandwich or a vegetarian burger, not only will they contribute to improving America’s health, but they will enjoy increased profits and customer satisfaction.

Through this change, Americans can choose something that not only is better for their body, but tasty at the same time because why else do we still eat at
fast food restaurants even when we are told that our generation will not outlive our parents’ generation?

In the efforts to “fix” America’s health issues and to solve obesity and other epidemic diseases, the federal government must consider other remedies than just putting a number beside a menu item.

Molly Dunn is a sophomore journalism major from Houston and a reporter for the Lariat.