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Kimberly Cooper's picture

Are we really surprised? The federal rule that would make it mandatory for restaurant, supermarket and convenience store chains to post calorie counts on their menus may be delayed yet again just days before taking effect on May 5, 2017. This process has pushed on for seven years now...

As a mother, public health activist, and decidedly engaged in what’s happening within the larger food industry practices impacting the health of our kids, learning that the current administration is attempting to delay menu labeling (to lift some of the burdening regulations for business owners) isn’t shocking. This latest stall attempt however doesn’t prevent us from staying informed about what’s going on in and behind the food that’s available to us when dining out - or the benefits to having this nutritional information easily accessible. 

Why Menu-Labeling Helps...

In its simplest practice, menu labeling is a step in the right direction toward nutritional transparency along with aiding consumers make empowered decisions about their food choices in clear and easy ways. While there is much debate over whether “calorie-counting” is an effective tool for weight control - access to calorie and nutrition information can and does impact the decision making process when out and away from home. (Parents really want to pay close attention to sugar content too!)

Never do I face this more when staring into the glass case of pastries and breakfast options at my local Starbucks (where menu labeling is already provided) while awaiting my Saturday cup of Pike roast! But more importantly, as a Mom, I want to help inform my kids on how to best empower themselves by making healthful choices – and at the very least - mindful choices about the foods that they reach for while away from me too. The momentary pause I take to review the options and nutritional information when we are out to eat or headed into the movie theater isn’t lost to them.

Empowering Our Kids to Make Healthful Decisions

Teaching children how to read nutritional labels on packages should begin when they are learning to read and can help out in the kitchen. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health launched its Choose Health LA Restaurants program to help families locate food establishments with menu labeling/reduced portion sizes, healthful options for kids and easy tips for dining out.

It’s important for us to keep in mind - all calories are not created equal. A 12 oz. Coke with 140 calories (39 grams of sugar) isn’t healthier for you than say a one oz. serving of almonds (23 nuts) with 163 calories just because the calories in the soda are lower.

Whether we are “counting calories” or not – being aware of calorie content promotes increased nutrition education and awareness. Mindful eating is one of the most important steps toward overall health – deepest thanks to those restaurants and food chains already in compliance with this important menu-labeling law.

Knowledge is power, and when we are empowered with the means to make healthier lifestyle habits, our kids reap the benefits too!


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