As Sandy Procter sees it, a new regulation recently announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration might help us stay healthier.
But as she also sees it, good health comes from common sense and not government regulation.
Procter is an assistant professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University. The new regulation is a labeling requirement of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: It requires restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to list calorie information on menus and menu boards.
It also applies to vending machine companies with 20 or more locations.
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Procter thinks the new regulation is good for us, but not because we all need more government regulation in our lives.
Years ago, pressed for time, most of us began eating out a lot more, now averaging one out of every three meals. This happened at about the same time that restaurants began increasing portion sizes, creating more all-you-can-eat buffets and trying to keep customers coming by putting in a little more salt, a little more butter, a little more sugar.
The regulation is good, she said, because most of us don’t know what ingredients are on that plate.
“You shouldn’t have to have an advanced degree in nutrition to figure out what to eat at a restaurant,” she said. Practically speaking, the new regulation can help all of us, even in something as simple as choosing a healthier sauce. A tomato-based sauce, for example, is lower in calories than a cream-based sauce.
But here’s the thing, Procter said: Our health is mostly our responsibility.
The best way to be healthy at a restaurant? Cut your intake in half.
Many people who have been successful in losing weight are those who split a meal, she said. “Or they order a take-home box right away and put half of it in there so they are not even tempted to clean their plate.”