If you read a few headlines, listen to the news, or frequent a fast food restaurant, you may have noticed a few more numbers beside the meal or drink you purchased last time you were out. I have read a number of articles on this topic, and had many discussions with friends and colleagues, all resulting in these thoughts for all of you.
Calorie counts became more prominent on January 1, 2017 when chain restaurants with 20 or more locations were required by law to indicate the calorie counts of their menu items. But is the level of accountability on the restaurant’s part all chalked up to what you, as a consumer, need to know?
Well, let me ask you this. What meal would you choose of the two below?
2 Cups mixed greens + 4 oz salmon + ½ Cup corn kernels + 1 Tbsp roasted almonds + 1 Cup chopped beets + 2 oz goats milk cheese + 1 Tbsp olive oil + 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar + 1 tsp honey + ½ lemon squeezed
Small Hamburger (regular bun + patty) with 1 Tbsp each ketchup, mustard and relish + Small French Fries
I know you may be drooling right now, so which one did you choose? Would you choose a meal based on a healthy choice, or by the numbers that are aligned beside the ingredients? We seem to be a society fixated on numbers. The number on the scale, the number in inches of our waist line, and the numbers attached to the calories (of energy) in our food. And I know this because I used to be all worked up about this calorie in and calorie out equation too because society dictated this through headlines and lack of research….but yah, I fell for it, until I became empowered with the right knowledge. We know that if we consume more energy in a day (adding up in a week and then a month), then what we expend in a day, those extra calories may be bottled up and stored as fat. I say may here because the more metabolically active your muscles are, the more efficient your body becomes at burning your food substrate into energy substrate. Or do we know this? Why is there not enough information floating through our headlines about how you can make your body more efficient in burning fuel you eat. No, that doesn’t give you the green slip to eat out high fat, greasy food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but there is an information gap here, which comes down to the quality of the food nutrients you’re eating.
The quality of the calories you eat is so much more important than the number of calories you eat sometimes. Yes, this takes an understanding and knowledge share, but that’s a lesson for you to all take to the manager at the restaurant with the fancy new calorie board. Or maybe this just strikes that next bit of awareness to the company that the consumer is inquiring about what makes up those calories. Hopefully this number will help steer some recipes in a new direction, for the better of all of our inside health. Would you change your meal choice based on knowing how many calories are in one food item over another?
Some restaurant chains have begun re-thinking their menu items once seeing some of the calorie counts, whereas others aren’t quite ready to alter the flavor and taste of their foods. I mean, at the end of the day, I know that when I don’t want to cook and opt for take-out, whether it’s pizza, a nice salmon dish, chicken wings and nachos or a burger, I’m just making the choice to eat that for my meal and not carry any guilt with it! Yes, it may take time for someone to get to this place, but we all have a choice to know more about the food we are eating, whether we’re cooking with it, or buying someone else’s creation. The opportunity lies in setting time aside to learn about all of these different foods, and how the quality of their nutrients can add value or not to our overall health.
And on the numbers front. Our salmon salad meal up above comes with a total of 754 calories for that beautiful fully balanced meal, and will leave you full, satisfied and energized until your next meal, while the small hamburger topped with condiments and a small French fry, has 706 calories, without providing a whole lot of key nutrients your body needs to fuel optimally and stay strong and healthy.