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Health Care Reform Bill Changes Fast Food Menus

42711932_63275a104a_mAttention fast food lovers: your days of blissful ignorance about the calories in that McShake are numbered.

A provision in the health care reform bill will require fast food restaurants to post prominent calorie counts next to all their menu items. At more than 200,000 fast food drive thrus and chain restaurants, we’ll have to swallow the calorie numbers before biting into our fries.

The goal, of course, is to make us think twice before ordering those fries, or the burger they accompany. It’s also a way to shine a light on differences in fast food items. Coffee drinks can range from 20 calories to over 800. That’s a big gap to swallow as we choose our morning kick start. It might lead more than a few of us to forgo the lattes and start appreciating our coffee black again.

Or it might not. Calorie and nutrition information is readily available on all the packaged snack foods we buy at the grocery store, and we still load up on empty calories, to the point where some kids are getting almost a third of their calories from sugar, fats and empty starches.

Clearly, knowing is no more than half the battle. It’s unclear how much the new calorie information will affect diners’ choices. But it does give us more power to choose the healthier items.

This new regulation was supported by the restaurant industry. They prefer a national standard to the patchwork of state and local regulations that was beginning to emerge. The new rules also cover food sold in vending machines.

Will knowing how many calories are in your breakfast muffin make you choose lighter fare? Or is the new rule robbing us of the guilty pleasure of eating out?

Photo: Ebruli

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