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You can ignore the signs and eat what you want released a report on Jan. 6, 2013 that one of the final additions to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a requirement for vending machines to list the calorie count of their snacks. This law also requires food chains with over 20 stores to list the calorie count of their menu items.

Healthy foods in San Francisco school vending machines
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

There is some evidence that this can make a difference in consumption, but not always. When menu items had calories listed in New York City, the food orders averaged about 100 fewer calories. When a similar trial was done in Philadelphia, there was no apparent difference.

For those already upset that the ACA requires people to buy insurance, forcing vendors and restaurant chains to provide the fat and calorie content of their meals may be another major affront. One of the key emphasis points of the ACA is to focus on doing preventative care instead of critical care.

There is a definite link of obesity to a wide variety of very serious illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and kidney disease. For those with the attitude that they will eat whatever they like, getting information on the calories in a snack or meal is meaningless. We’ll check back on you later in the ICU.

For those that would like to live a relatively long and healthy life, this information can help bolster our resolve to eat better and eat less. Despite the TV ads, there is never going to be a magic pill that allows us to sit on the couch munching potato chips, drinking beer and eating chicken wings without gaining weight and putting our health at risk.

A hard work out for 30 minutes on an elliptical trainer will burn between 350 to 400 calories, and this is a really hard work out. Running at a 5 minute/mile pace for 30 minutes will burn about 675 calories, and you have to be in good shape to do that.

The advantage of getting a calorie count for a vending machine snack or a restaurant meal for someone that actually cares about their health is that you begin to think how many minutes you will have to work out to burn those calories. It makes it very easy to stay away from the super size drinks and fries if it translates into another 30 grueling minutes of exercise.

You can get estimates of calories burned for various exercise levels based upon your weight and the duration of the exercise. It is good to be aware what it takes to burn a pound of fat, which is about 3,200 calories. This link provides a large choice of exercises, with estimated calories based upon the individual's weight and the length of time for the exercise. Sex is not listed as an activity, and should not be considered as a fitness exercise for most readers.

For a person weighing 185 pounds, running at a 12 minute/mile pace for 30 minutes burns about 335 calories and walking at a 15 minute/mile pace for 30 minutes burns about 210 calories. You are going to have to take a long run or even longer walk to burn the calories in the Hershey bar you are about to eat.

Without picking on any fast food chain in particular, all of the major fast food chains supply nutrition information for their food items. It is possible to eat somewhat healthy meals. It is possible to buy a heart attack in a bag from any of the fast food chains if you make the wrong choices.

The bottom line is that there is more and more information available about the nutritional content of the foods we purchase. We now can know the total calories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, and sugar content of packaged foods, snacks and beverages.

It is each person’s decision on whether they pay attention to what they are consuming. If you don’t care how long you live, ignore the nutrition information and eat what you want. Otherwise, be glad that you are getting useful information to make informed decisions that can help you avoid major health issues.

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