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Marketplace Scratch Pad

Seeing calories everywhere

Scott Jagow Mar 23, 2010

It’s still hard to gauge exactly how the new health care laws will affect people on a daily basis, but there is one provision that will definitely be visible.

Restaurants with at least 20 locations nationwide will be required to post calorie counts on their menus, both inside and at the drive-through. This national law will supercede any local or state measures that require posting nutritional information. More from the LA Times:

“People will be able to see that the order of chili cheese fries they are considering will be 3,000 calories,” said nutrition advocate Margo Wootan, who helped write the bill.

Until now, cities, counties and states were each able to develop their own rules — and many already have them in place.

“This legislation will replace a growing patchwork of varying state and local regulations with one consistent national standard that helps consumers make choices that are best for themselves and their families,” said Dawn Sweeney, chief executive of the National Restaurant Assn.

Restaurants will also be required to give out other information, including the amount of sodium, carbs, fiber and protein in each standard serving of their food.

Vending machines will also have to include the calorie counts, as will buffets and alcoholic drink menus at the restaurant chains affected by the law.

As we’ve discussed before, there’s conflicting data on whether posting calorie counts actually results in people eating better. And I’m sure Carl’s Jr. will pounce on this opportunity to brag about a 9,000 calorie burger.

But I’ve always found I make better choices when I have the information than when I’m just guessing. In my brain anyway, guessing and wishful thinking seem to be exactly the same thing.

Image: AP

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