Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch on Monday's CBC Ottawa Morning!

So we're leaping from social media to real media on Monday morning when following the 7:30AM news I'll be on CBC Radio One's Ottawa Morning.

Tune in to hear about the initiative to have the Citizen provide its readers with nutritional information and about the bizarre concerns of the Dietitians of Canada with NDP MPP Frances Gelinas' private members bill set to put calories on the menus of chain restaurants!

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  1. Dr. Feedhoff

    While I can appreciate that you view the position of the Dietitians of Canada on the subject of calorie labelling on menu boards as going against many, many other health promoting organizations, you should be aware that DC has not yet released its position on this topic. You should also be aware of the staggering amounts of research into consumer eating behaviours which look into how food and nutrition messages impact consumers. Dr. Brian Wansink has researched consumer eating behaviours and has found that when a food is labelled low fat, consumers actually eat up to 35% more of that food, mistakenly thinking that lower in fat means healthier. How does that translate into consumer purchases based on calories at a fast food outlet? What if it means people will choose the higher calorie food from the menu because they think the lower calorie food tastes poor? Shouldn’t we be teaching people to eat moderate portions of food based on the taste, nutrition and quality of the food, instead of basing their choices on math and calories posted? How do you know this will not be the result for a segment of the population and possibly for the segment of eaters out there with already disordered views on food?

    While I think that in the end the Dietitians of Canada will come out with a reasonable and supported position on this issue, I think that you could be more respectful of an organization wishing to review all the sides of an issue before jumping in with everyone else’s views.

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog and appreciate it.

    Michelle Archer, RD and Dietitians of Canada Member

  2. Thanks for the comments Michelle,

    I'm quite familiar with Dr. Wansink's work. His work on Health Halos has yet to be applied to calorie counts on menu boards and therefore no conclusion therein can be drawn.

    The studies on calorie counts on menus demonstrate that in fact consumers who care about nutrition utilize the information to eat on average 99 fewer calories per meal while those who do not care, don't change behaviour.

    The experience with NYC demonstrates that restaurants respond as well which is why if you go to McDonald's in NYC and order a large fries your order will have 60 fewer calories than those purchased in locations that do not post calories.

    While there's certainly nothing wrong with evaluating evidence, there's something wrong with sending out a survey that's designed to influence responses.

    I would argue that those who would suggest that calories should not be considered as a nutritional determinant of food truly do not understand evidence based nutrition and that in fact we should be teaching people to eat moderate portions of food based on taste, nutrition, quality AND calories. The notion that teaching people about calories triggering eating disorders has never been seen in the medical literature and in fact the few studies that I have seen that have evaluated the effects of healthy nutrition messaging inclusive of calories do not in fact lead to any increase in disordered eating behaviours. Frankly I would argue that part of teaching about calories would include teaching that there are minimum numbers to have per meal, snack and day as well as how many their bodies need per day. How teaching people to ensure that they meet minimum calorie requirements will lead them to have disordered eating is something I cannot fathom and is for now a hollow argument.


  3. Dr. Freedhoff

    To be clear, I did not say or imply that posting calories on menu boards would trigger eating disorders. Nor do I believe that to be true. I do believe that it can be one more food message to consider for a person who already has unhealthy food messages running through their mind. In my practice I see a lot of people like this, as I am sure you do as well.

    I am fully aware that the food world has dramatically changed for all of us, even in the past 20 years and that processes and practices need to change with the times. I am also aware that many, many people are eating for the wrong reasons and are making poor food choices (often based on emotions/feelings/food influences, and not hunger) and have no idea how to change that.

    I see the merits in having calories posted on menu boards for a segment of the population who is motivated and understands how to use the numbers to their advantage.

    I hope that you are correct in that posting these numbers does result in people making healthier food choices. That is an end result we can all agree to.