Losing weight through regular exercise and reducing caloric intake is the road to longevity and good health. But now there is another way to shed pounds. Many people who enjoy dining out are learning that they can take the first steps in reducing weight simply by getting educated. Just read the calorie counts on the menu, and you'll make better food choices.
Although Americans eat out more than ever before, few restaurants provide nutrition information at the time of ordering. Without nutrition information, it is not easy to compare options and make informed decisions. As a result, people eat more saturated fat and salt, absorb fewer nutrients, and ingest more calories than they realize.
According to Julie Ceyhan, a registered dietician at St. Francis Hospital in Manhasset, most people are not careful about calories and sodium intake in restaurant food portions.
“When people dine out, they usually underestimate the amount of calories they are taking in,” said Ceyhan. “With menu labeling, especially in fast food restaurants, people will be much more aware of the calories and high sodium intake. Too much salt is very bad for you and can cause many health problems.”
Studies have shown that without clear, easy-to-use nutrition information, it’s difficult to make knowledgeable choices at restaurants. Few people realize that a small milkshake has more calories than a Big Mac or that a tuna sandwich from a deli contains twice as many calories as the roast beef with mustard.
Recent legislation through the Labeling Education and Nutrition Act (LEAN) of 2009 has authorized fast-food and other chain restaurants to post calories and other nutrition information on menus and display boards. LEAN has been long supported by health groups in Long Island and the country, and encouraged by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan states, “Whether you’re concerned about managing your weight or about getting your money’s worth at chain restaurants, calorie counts are critical pieces of information…”
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