SACRAMENTO—New legislation introduced by State Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) may revolutionize the way Californians eat when dining out—and help combat our perennial battle of the bulge. It’s a battle we appear to be losing: 64 percent of Americans are now overweight.
SB 180 would require chain restaurants to post calorie content about their meals in plain view on restaurant menus and menu boards so customers can make informed decisions before ordering meals. A chain restaurant is defined as five outlets in California or one in the state but at least 10 total outlets in the U.S.
“Californians need to know the calorie content of their meals to make healthier decisions about the food they consume,” said Migden. “There’s no denying the link between overeating fatty foods and obesity. We’re spending nearly half of our food dollars outside our homes while obesity rates have risen 100 percent over the last 10 years. Health planners and policymakers are trying to influence eating habits to curb diabetes rates and skyrocketing health-care costs.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 12 percent of Americans eat a healthy diet.
Our fast-paced lifestyles, combined with the prevalence of affordable, convenient fast-food outlets, have led to greater reliance on restaurants to feed our families. With our current system of voluntary labeling, it’s difficult for people to make informed decisions about what they eat. Increased caloric intake has been directly linked to people eating out more frequently. Studies have found that children eat almost twice as many calories when they eat at a restaurant than at home.
Currently most restaurants do not provide nutritional information about their meals. Many restaurants post nutritional information on their websites which, while helpful in theory, is unworkable for many people at “point of purchase” who face a menu with no nutritional information provided.