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  • HuskNutrition

What do you feel about the calories on menus?

Recently in the UK, businesses, restaurants and eateries with over 250 staff have had to start and employ calorie information on their menu items.

Understandably it has been met with positivity and negativity.

  • we have to see all sides.

There’s a side of people who feel empowered in making their choices line up with what they value. They can make informed decisions about what they choose.

There’s a side of people who see it as one more controlling measure and therefore hate the simple fact that they are being reminded of ‘restrictions’.

There’s a side of people who will see it as challenge, they will actively seek the largest calorie items on menus. Either for competition, fun or to help them choose which will be the most delicious item.

There’s also a side of people who will fear eating out any restaurant that does not provide this information and will only ever choose the smallest menu items or react worse by having that information, feeding disordered eating and dysmorphia.

Wait - it gets better…

There is also an issue in what actually happens from the ingredients, vs the chef who makes it vs that actually being the food that is on the plate presented.

Some restaurants across the globe, where most of the process is automated, managed and organised to take error out of product creation (fast food for example), they also consider profit margins. It costs money to over use ingredients.

There is even the issue is whether the potatoes have been served to you on your plate were grown in different types of arable land and what nutrients that land had, or didn’t.

The orange that you pick up from the supermarket might have grown further away from the root of the tree and therefore has different amounts of nutrients.

There’s absolutely WAY more.

It is a complex situation isn’t it?

The issue really is dependant on where the person taking in this information is ‘at’, look at an individual centred approach.

We aren’t typically annoyed at the information per se, we’re usually annoyed at situations that challenge our values, blocks our access to wants and needs or when we think we know there is a better solution that’s just not in place.

To 100% refute the information or to use it, is fully inside of your control to do so - it is information and just like any information it’s a bit like a buffet, you can take the bits that you want and you can choose to leave the rest.

People are having their spending tracked every single day in their bank accounts and yet some choose to control it, some control some of it when they fancy and some just completely ignore it all of the time.

Calorie information - much the same - is surely just information. The issue is in how we use it and why.

No matter how you feel about that process, when calories were put onto the back of a crisp packet or a chocolate bar in 1996, very little has changed in terms of the obesity epidemics and whether or not people choose their food based upon that information. I know this, because I still have to educate people on food labels.

This isn’t the first time and will not be the last.

The Public Health Responsibility Deal in 2012 was to help providing calorie information on food served outside of the home as initiative that can support those who are trying to manage their weight. Originally, the UK introduced voluntary calorie labelling.

In 2004, reducing obesity was one of the seven key priority areas for improving the health of the nation identified in the 2004 government white paper 'Choosing Health'. One of the actions identified was a call for the provision of clearer food labelling.

In 1996 a set of Guideline Daily Amounts for labelling purposes were developed as a means of communicating the Government's nutrient intake recommendations from 1994 and 1987 in a way that could then be used as part of the nutrition information on the back of food packs.

Yet we still have issues within our obese societies. Obesity causes approximately 30,000 deaths a year costing the NHS around £500m.

The information therefore again, is not the problem.

It is a matter of how it is used.

Remember this:

The same ‘calories’ can seem massive to a person or very small depending on the uniqueness of them, their unique metabolism, what type of food they eat, how much they are used to eating, what their digestion is like, what food item it came from and the nutrient density of an item.

The best indicator of the amount of calories that you would like to eat is owning and honouring your own hunger and fullness and if you have been offloading that something like MyFitnessPal for a very long time then you will have no understanding of your hunger and fullness and that is actually the skill that our obese societies need to practice.

Not the numbers.

But it’s really difficult to do and it’s hard to have the confidence in your abilities.

A whole food minimally processed diet is the number 1 way to naturally eat to satiated, find your fullness, eat slowly and get more nutrition and less calories.

It’s also a great way to expand your stomach with less calories and telling you’re full, but when you don’t eat whole foods, you don’t get as much feedback and overeat on the more processed items, which is what ‘normal’ society is doing.

… just one of many correlations with issues in obesity.

You have to learn and know yourself. That is the most powerful outcome from this discussion.


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