Well, it’s official. Just this past week, calorie labeling has been put into effect all across America on restaurant menus and vending machines to help you make informed and healthier eating choices. All U.S. restaurant chains and vending machines have to abide by the new rule implemented by Congress when the Affordable Care Act passed back in 2010. And, the deadline to be 100% compliant was this past Monday. Yikes.
What does this mean?
Walk into any food chain restaurant or similar retail food establishment with 20 or more locations and you will see #calorielabeling for all food and non-food items. The same rules apply for establishments that own and operate 20 or more vending machines. The new rule is suppose to make you think twice about ordering that high-calorie hamburger, and instead opt for an item with less calories.
What experts are saying
Some experts say calorie labeling doesn’t help the consumer, and consumers will still eat the hamburger or food item they want. However, others say there is a indirect effect to the consumer in which the mandated calorie labeling are influencing restaurants to voluntarily reduce the calories in many of their food items. This in turn, will help the consumer consume less calories unintentionally.
Will calorie counts help me lose weight?
Maybe – the research is inconclusive. Some say a difference of 30 calories over time (like choosing between a hamburger or cheeseburger) will certainly shed a few pounds over the year. Others say, 30 calories isn’t enough to make a difference.
Dietitian Advice >>> What will make a difference is creating self awareness around the food you eat – for example, omitting the Pepsi for water or choosing the big mac hamburger with a side salad instead of fries. Making small changes to your daily routine and omitting 250-500 calories a day will make a huge difference, and ultimately lead to weight loss.
EXAMPLE: You’re at Mcdonalds about to order the usual for lunch — Big Mac burger (540 calories) and medium fries (340 calories). Today will be different. Instead of the usual medium fries, aim for a side salad (15 calories). Grab a few fries from your friend if you want to. Skipping the fry order for yourself will still make a difference. If you went with a side salad, you would be saving 330 calories at this meal. If you made these small changes every day, you would lose ~1/2 pound a week.
How do I calculate how many calories I need per day?
In simple terms, a calorie is the amount of energy stored in food. And, we need that energy to fuel the body. Too many calories can contribute to weight gain and other health issues including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
The amount of calories we need in order to function are individualized and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all. However, there are a few ways to determine your own daily caloric intake using the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation.
Steps to calculate your caloric intake:
1. Enter your age.
2. Enter your weight (lbs).
3. Enter your height (in).
4. Instead of stress factor, use the “lifestyle and level of activity” below. Enter the PAL that corresponds to you.
5. Click calculate.
OR, you can calculate it yourself using the equation below:
*RMR = resting metabolic rate**Don’t forget to multiple the RMR by a physical activity factor above.
The calories calculated is the total amount of calories needed to maintain body weight. If you want to lose weight, you need to subtract 250-500 calories per day to lose 1/2 – 1 pound a week.
What does this mean for you?
Okay, so you know your individual caloric needs, now what? With the calorie labeling, we are able to make conscious decisions on the foods we purchase. Remember, it is all about balance, so we can maintain a healthy lifestyle and still enjoy the foods we love.
Enjoy your next pastry for breakfast, but don’t forget – pair it with something healthy and nutritious like an egg muffin or yogurt parfait!
How does the new calorie labeling effect you?
Please feel free to comment below.