Monday, 3 March 2014

Calories on menus - Step in the right direction?

Last week, I was listening to "Ontario Today" on CBC radio (love that show), and they were discussing the new provincial proposal to force all restaurants in Ontario to put calorie counts on all their menu items.  It was an interesting discussion with some great points from all sides.

- Some people who phoned in thought it was a great idea, and that should they go to a restaurant and see the amount of calories in their choices right in front of them, it would persuade them to make a healthier option.
- Some phoned in saying that this is a waste of the provincial governments time and money and that there's more important health issues (such as hospital waiting times etc) that need to be dealt with.
- Others phoned in bringing up the point that calories on a menu won't really change peoples minds, because they already know that going to fast food restaurants (for example) is a poor choice for a meal.
-A couple people also called in to say that there are more important information that should be on the menus like sodium and sugar content.

I thought I would share my opinion on this with my clients and followers...


I really enjoyed hearing all sides of the call-ins on this show.  I agreed with many of the callers on most points.  I really do feel that should the government force restaurants to post more information on the menus, they should target more ingredient based items (such as sodium or sugar as mentioned).


Once again, the government steps in and leads us all to believe that the main issue with our food choices is the amount of calories.  It's no wonder we get so confused and lost when it comes to how to eat for a healthy lifestyle.

Calories are energy, however what that energy is made up of is the most important factor.  I always use the example of the 100 calorie Oreo snack packs vs. 100 calories of almonds lets say. Which is a better option? If we go by calories as our main indicator, we could choose either one right? But which of these foods will provide the body with energy and nutrients it needs?  The almonds of course. The Oreos will provide us with nothing but a sugar fix and a bunch of artificial ingredients that will break us down.


Do I think calorie counts on menus are necessary and should restaurants be forced to do it? I don't believe so.  As one caller mentioned, everyone today knows that going to a fast food restaurant is a poor nutrition choice.  Everyone knows that getting a fried food at a restaurant such as Kelsey's or Montana's is a much worse option than a healthy salad with some grilled chicken or fish.

Where I feel restaurants can help those who seek the information, is for the government force all restaurants to have the information available (be it online or as a pamphlet).  But not just some numbers that we see on food labels (calories, fat, protein, carbs etc) but what's really in the food - the ingredients. McDonald's impresses me in this way.  Although it took some searching (hence when I say make it easily accessible to consumers), I found a downloadable pdf document that lists every single individual item on their menus.  From the buns that hold the burgers together, to the piece of lettuce and tomato on them.  Each menu item has a list of all the ingredients that makes up that particular item.  THIS is what I believe ALL restaurants should offer.  Then those who truly care about their health, have the ability to see what is in that hamburger, slice of garlic bread or stack of ribs drowned in sauce that they're eating.


We need to shift our thoughts away from how much of something we're getting to what's in what we're eating.  Real foods promote health and allow the body to do as it was designed to do.  Processed/"franken-foods" (as they're called now) create addictions and break the body down.  Canada's Food Guide was brought up at one point on the show last week, and it constantly frustrates me that this old-school view of nutrition is still being pushed by "Health" Canada.  Step away from the old way of thinking and how you were taught growing up. It has brought on disease, and sickness like no other generation before us.  If you want true health, you have to go much further back in time to when human beings ate only the food that was provided by nature.  And guess what? Our ancestors who did so, didn't care if they ate 500 or 1000 calories at a time.  It was survival.  Food provided energy and the ability to make it to the next meal which might have been a day or a week later.  They didn't live off numbers or serving sizes.  The real food they ate, provided them with what they needed to survive as a species.  No industrialization and processed foods, no fancy math calculations to know how much they should or shouldn't eat that day... If they would have done so, we wouldn't even be here today.