Calorie Counting to Better Health: A Movement to Fight Obesity
Think about your day. Do you choose a nearby fast-food restaurant to buy lunch or do you usually take a home-prepared meal to work and eat at your desk? At dinner time, do you frequently depend on take-out food to feed yourself or do you cook a healthy meal at home? If you usually choose to eat out instead of preparing meals at home, then you might be like the majority of Americans. According to one estimate, eating out “accounted for 42% of U.S. households’ food expenditures in 2009” (Economic Research Service, as cited in Morrison, Mancino & Variya, 2011). Eating out has become the first choice for many Americans. Most people depend on fast-food restaurants to feed themselves and this is becoming a nutritional hazard for many. Consumers need to know the calorie counts contained in their fast-food options, to make smarter choices, maintain a healthier lifestyle, and prevent long term diseases. The average calorie content in a fast-food meal ranges from 749 to 926 calories (Saunders, 2009). Recommended daily calorie intake varies from person to person, but the average amount recommended for an adult is 2000 calories. Taking this into consideration, one fast-food meal may account for nearly half of the average amount recommended per day. Only extremely active people like athletes, or people that need to gain weight might be prescribed by a doctor to consume a high calorie diet, but fast-food meals are not considered a healthy choice when needing to maintain a healthy body function or gain weight the healthy way. Foods served in fast-food restaurants tend to contain a higher content of calories and a lower nutritional value, compared to homemade meals. It is widely known that maintaining a healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of getting a health threatening disease. A healthy lifestyle includes: not smoking, exercising regularly, keeping alcohol intake at a minimal, and eating healthy. As Morrison, Mancino & Variya assert, “calorie disclosure may prompt consumers to substitute menu items that lower their caloric intakes and may encourage restaurants to offer lower calorie options”. The involvement of fast-food restaurants in the fight against obesity could encourage the general population to be more careful with their body and overall health. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle also involves getting constantly educated on how to make healthier choices. A person should not only rely on the information that restaurants provide. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides through their website www.choosemyplate.gov valuable information about MyPlate (the new food pyramid), and offer great tools to help monitor the calories consumed, physical activity, and also offer healthy eating tips. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle also benefits the nation’s economy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as cited in Howlett, Burton, Bates & Huggins 2009, reported that “the rising incidence of weight-related diseases and conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke is having an increasingly negative effect on consumers’ health and welfare and placing a significant strain on the U.S. health care system. Not surprisingly, a key priority of the CDC has been to reduce the prevalence of obesity to less than 15% by the year 2010”. Being healthy means having fewer risks on developing diseases, therefore lowering the cost of health care. The high frequency of visits to fast-food restaurants is contributing to the two primary risk factors for type 2 diabetes: obesity and insulin resistance (Pereira et al., as cited in Tangari, Burton, Howlett, Yoon-Na & Thyroff, 2010). Consuming large portions of fast-food meals cause negative effects in health, since these meals contain high concentrations of sodium, saturated fats, and carbohydrates....