Finally Time to Face the Nutrition Facts

Some may say ignorance is bliss when it comes to the nutrition facts. However, for those of us enlightened enough to understand our food in “Jambaisms,” we know better. Who could resist such witty proverbs as “Your body is a temple, littering is strictly prohibited” (Jambaism #5), or “You are not in a sprint, [but] in a marathon” (Jambaism #13)? As college students, we should be forming healthy eating habits. The food choices we make today affect the way our bodies look and feel in the future.

With this in mind, did you know that one serving of Beijing Beef at Panda Express is 850 calories? And that Grande Java Chip Frappucino? 460 calories. Perhaps you thought you were healthy by opting for a Jamba Juice smoothie instead. Nope! Jamba’s original Orange Dream Machine already costs 470 calories. That’s nearly a quarter of the suggested 2,000-calorie daily guideline. So much for not littering the temple.

Now, I don’t meticulously calculate my own daily consumption of calories, but I do try to eat healthy. This is why I gladly anticipate the soon-to-be-required display of calorie count labels in chain restaurants across the nation. In an attempt to fight obesity and improve the overall health of Americans, politicians snuck this new law into Congress by attaching it to the massive health care reform bill. From now on, restaurants with over 20 nationwide locations are required to display calorie counts on all regular menu items. In addition, all vending machines will also be required to disclose calorie counts for all vending items. Therefore, as soon as 2011, pushing D3 on the vending machine will not only cost me more than a dollar for a Snickers bar, but will also remind me that I just consumed a meal’s worth of calories.

The government is not banning foods that are high in calories. Instead, by posting calorie counts, it is providing Americans with more information in hopes that we will make healthier decisions. Posting calorie counts merely allows customers to be fully aware of what they are consuming. As Sir Francis Bacon says, “knowledge is power.” Therefore, knowing the health benefits and risks of our favorite foods gives power to every individual to be entirely responsible for his or her choices. The idea ensures that customers have instant access to nutrition information on menu boards, and can process the information as they order their food.

Yes, some consumers will ignore the information. Oftentimes, people intentionally eat out to indulge in dangerous-but-delicious menu options. However, I believe that it will make a big enough impact that some will think twice about “supersizing” their meal or “having it their way” with extra mayo and cheese. In this way, the public would experience the great long-term benefits of healthier lifestyles and decreased rates of health problems.

Though I know I will be plagued with guilt each time I order a Java Chip Frappucino at Starbucks, I truly believe that this is a step in the right direction. Now, everyone will know that ordering a Chicken Caesar salad at Quiznos is not so innocent, but rather costs 140 calories more than a regular Mesquite Chicken sandwich.

For myself, I am confident that this new law will help me make healthier decisions. I will no longer be able to convince myself that boba milk teas are “not that bad for me,” or that choosing a salad is always the healthier alternative. Soon nutritional facts will stare me in the eye, and reality will take precedence over assumptions.

All in all, easy, instant access to calorie information will help us make healthier decisions today so we can form better habits tomorrow. Instead of mindlessly munching away on deceptively high-calorie foods, we will be in more control to make wiser decisions. After all, Jambaism #3 commands us to “do unto your body as you wish it would do unto you.”

Nicole Chao is a second-year biological sciences major. She can be reached at chaon@uci.edu.