Will putting Calories on Menus change the way we eat?

Will putting Calories on Menus change the way we eat?

What we need to nurture is a love of food, a culture where food is valued and enjoyed, not analysed and feared.

Over the last four weeks you may have been grappling with a new year’s resolution to get more active, eat healthier, lose weight.

But when you decide to head out to dinner, would it help you maintain your efforts if the restaurant menu had calorie counts on display? Or would it just serve as a guilty reminder that you are supposed to be tightening that belt around your waist too?

As the new year dawned with a renewed (for now) collective health consciousness, the Government published yet another industry consultation on the proposal “to require that calories be displayed on the menus of all food businesses including restaurants, takeaways, fast-food outlets, coffee shops, cafes, catering companies, delicatessens and pubs”.

We have been here before. Simon Harris is the third Fine Gael Minister for Health who has threatened to introduce such legislation, after they initially asked large fast-food chains to voluntarily put calorie counts on their menus in 2011 and did not get the response they were looking for. They never managed to get it over the line and, with a fresh election looming, perhaps this policy will slip through the net again.

The catering industry will be hoping it does. Businesses have come out against the move on the grounds that it will be hugely costly, inaccurate and impossible to enforce. Restaurants will incur immense time and cost to assess the calorific content of every ingredient, recipe, and dish and to retrain their chefs.

Calculating calories requires standardised ingredients and an assumption of fixed quantities in every recipe. How does one account for the difference between, say, lean indoor-reared pork and the much fattier (and tastier) outdoor reared old breeds?

What about the extra nob of butter or dash of cream the chef adds to finish a sauce? A 2010 US study showed that even in chain restaurants with standardised menus, measured calories were on average 18 per cent higher than listed on the menu.

View the article in full on The Irish Times.

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