News & Publications

FDA calorie labeling rules

Dec 16, 2014

At the end of November, the FDA finally announced its long-delayed calorie labeling rules. This new rule requires facilities that sell prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to post the calorie content of their products ‘‘clearly and conspicuously’’ on their menus, menu boards, and displays. Companies will have one year or ‘til November 2015 to comply. The regulations will also apply to convenience stores, bakeries, coffee shops, pizza delivery, amusement parks, and vending machines.

How many of your patients do you think know how many calories they should be eating?  I teach diabetes and prediabetes classes weekly to a new group of 8-14 people. Each week I start the class out by asking “What is a normal blood sugar?  What has your doctor told you YOUR blood sugar should be?”  VERY rarely will someone - maybe one person per week – know what a normal blood sugar is.  People throw out all kinds of numbers when it comes to what their blood sugar should be.  Once we have discussed what a normal blood sugar level is – and they all write down their goals - I then ask about calories.  Most of the patients are clueless about what calories actually are – I have learned that I must clearly state the difference between calories, carbohydrates and cholesterol.  The patients get those terms confused – some even use them interchangeably.  To make it as clear as possible, I actually move between three different places in the front of the classroom to help the patients make the distinction between the three terms.  Rarely do they know what an appropriate caloric intake should be.

When I heard this news, I thought I would do a very non-scientific experiment with my husband.  So - I asked him, “Honey, how many calories so you think you should eat a day?”  He replied, “Oh, I guess about 10,000.”  OMG!  I turned to look at him directly. “Seriously, you think you should eat 10,000 calories per day!?!”  He replied, “Oh.  I thought you asked how many calories I thought I COULD eat per day. That would be about 10,000.  Based on what you have told me over the past 30 years, I think the number SHOULD be 1800 to 2000. Am I right??” Phew…. I was getting worried there.

Back on topic – this new information should help those who are interested and concerned to make better choices.  I know while sitting in a drive-through (which I try to avoid but sometimes I have no choice) I will change my initial choice once I see those calories listed.  It should help to enlighten our patients as to “hidden” calories from injected fats or butter, sauces, and condiments.  Or perhaps this info will dissuade our patients from taking in large amounts of calories in their beverages.  I know it has helped me to choose a “skinny” version of coffee.

Wishing you and your family a happy holiday season. Be safe in your travels and talk to you next year!!

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