So in April I helped the Ontario Medical Association roll out their call for calories to be posted both on chain restaurant menus and in school cafeterias.
I'm please to report that Hamilton Wentworth district schoolboard voted last week 5-4 to require cafeterias to "prominently display calories" of all menu items by September!
Some of the dissenting members displayed common misconceptions about calories. Wes Hicks was quoted as stating,
"It's the quality of what you eat and it's what you do after you eat calories"I suppose Wes thinks that exercise will burn off those calories and that if you choose healthy foods you needn't worry yourselves about calories.
Frankly I'd be surprised if all 4 of these misconceived arguments didn't rear their heads:
1. There's more to nutrition than simply calories (True. That said, I challenge everyone out there to tell me what nutritional determinant is more important at the end of the day than calories.)Kudos to Hamilton-Wentworth for leading the way!
2. We should be focusing on exercise, not food (False. Despite a ridiculous amount of attention, research and program development there has yet to be a school based public health intervention focused on exercise that has impacted upon weight).
3. Highlighting calories will promote eating disorders (False. There has never been a study to suggest that calorie awareness leads to eating disorders and further more I'd argue that taught properly kids should learn that there are in fact minimum numbers of calories per meal, snack and day that they should be seeking to both meet their nutritional needs and circumvent the influence of hunger).
4. It's too difficult to organize (False. Calculating calories is not particularly difficult and furthermore, given the large institutional contracts for food provision, something that certainly could be included in negotiating the next year's delivery).