Dara Duff-Bergeron: Sweaty Mummy


I'd Be Skinnier in New York

Calorie Counts On Menus

A couple of weeks ago, I turned 30.  So far, 30 has brought a knee injury, a 3-day flu and a terrible, terrible, terrible period (okay, I know a period is not much to complain about but it's only my second period since getting pregnant 2 1/2 years ago and I am still trying to remember how to do this whole advil/tampons/carbohydrate cravings thing)... 30 has been a cruel joke for the past week and a half.

But there was one nice little perk... my hubby whisked me away for a surprise 30th birthday weekend in New York.  We did a few tourist things - patio in Little Italy, double-decker bus ride to check out the neighbourhoods on a rainy day, dinner in some amazing restaurants.

Well, you can take the girl out of the gym, but you can't take the gym out of the girl... Everywhere we went, I was amazed by the availability of nutrition information.  In 2008, NYC upheld a law requiring ever restaurant to post calorie information for each item on its menu.

Every menu, right down to the menu board on a hot dog truck, provides calorie counts for each item.  At Starbucks, you have to face the 300-500 calories you're putting into your body, choosing a frappucino over a plain coffee.  At a fast food joint, you can't hide from the fact that adding fries and a soda to your burger brings you up to nearly a day's worth of calories.

What's the point? Knowledge is power. Armed with the calorie counts for your options, I believe you are more likely to be swayed in the direction of a healthier choice.  You can also see past misleading marketing terms, such as the "fat free" banana chocolate chip cake at Starbucks (also available in Canada, FYI), which comes in at 390 calories per slice!  Maybe you'd learn that a 'salad" is not really a salad when it is topped with cheese, creamy dressing and deep-fried chicken, and comes in at a whopping 1,200 calories!

When it comes down to it, weight maintenance is calories in, calories out.  Even the most nutrition-wise of us would be challenged to guess the calorie count of a fast food restaurant burger or bowl of noodles - so many ingredients, sauces, oils and sugars!

Preparing your own meals is one of the surest ways to trim your calories and maintain a lean body.  A law like the one in New York City may not make everyone change their ways, but it does shift the responsibility to the consumer and empower her to take care of her body.

If every city would follow suit, I believe we would all benefit from the ability to make wiser choices when eating out.

What do you think of mandatory calorie labelling? Do you read labels when you shop? Would restaurant labelling make you more likely to choose lower-calorie fare?