Do you think you know how to eat healthy? Your friendly neighborhood federal government doesn’t think you do. And they’re here to help.
Buried deep in the ObamaCare law, the gift from the Democrats to the nation that keeps on giving, chain restaurants are required to start labeling calories on all of their menu items. The law applies to vending-machine items as well. It’s proven to be a nightmare for small business and franchises, adding cost (which will have to be passed on to the diner, if they choose to pay it). In the case of things like “order your own” sandwiches or pizza, it is almost impossible to implement. As with much of the poorly written misbegotten law, it is unclear whether it applies to things like food trucks, or what the penalty is for non-compliance. Despite the uncertainty, overall cost has been estimated to be half a billion dollars, which will be “eaten” by consumers.
Meanwhile, over in the public-school cafeterias, food is being wasted, and money is being lost by the school districts, because kids refuse to purchase or eat what Michelle Obama thinks is good for them. The goal of her Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, passed in 2010, was to wage war on childhood obesity. But unsurprisingly, the children, obese and otherwise, find the high-fiber, low-fat, low-salt fare unappetizing, and when they don’t brown bag to avoid having to buy it, they throw much of it away. Worse, and particularly insanely, the law makes no distinction between different kids’ dietary needs, and completely fails to take into account physical activity — the football player gets as many (or few) calories as the chess champ.
Leaving aside the legitimate issue of whether or not such one-size-fits-none policies are actually in the purview of the federal government, the worst thing about them is that they’re based on junk science.
The calorie counts are based on the flawed theory, per basic thermodynamics, that a calorie is a calorie, in terms of weight gain or loss, regardless of whether it comes from fat, protein or carbohydrates. The reduction in sodium is mandated on the notion that salt is bad for everyone. The low-fat and reduced-cholesterol items are based on the primitive thinking that “you are what you eat.” In short, the FDA and USDA food “pyramid” (which the first lady recently replaced with a “plate”) upon which these laws and regulations are based is (like the scene from Woody Allen’s movie Sleeper) almost exactly the opposite of what we now know to be nutritionally healthy.
In fact, what kind of calories you consume is much more important than how many — protein and fat are actually beneficial in weight reduction, because they are more satiating and increase metabolism, while grains (a key part of the “plate”) and other high-glycemic carbohydrates, such as potatoes, actually promote weight gain (which is why cattle are fattened on corn, not on lard). Calorie counters have trouble keeping weight lost off because the diet is so unsatisfying and counterproductive metabolically. So the labels are actually worse than useless.
Unless one has elevated blood pressure, there is no scientific evidence that sodium is bad for most people, particularly young people. It might help to use sea salt rather than table, which provides additional elements such as magnesium and potassium, but for kids, reducing salt per se only reduces willingness to choke down the unappealing food.
With regard to fat and cholesterol, you are not what you eat. All of the recommendations for reducing fat in diet are based on flawed decades-old “studies,” and the actual science (as revealed by Nina Teichholz’s recent best seller, The Big Fat Surprise) indicates that saturated fat is healthy, and that elevated bad cholesterol and triglycerides, and weight gain, come from eating grains and other bad carbohydrates, not the consumption of fat. In the case of children, they need fat to promote the growth of not just their bodies, but particularly their young brains. Giving them low-fat milk is not just distasteful to them, but dietary child abuse.
It’s bad enough that flawed nutrition advice from the government agencies has in fact promoted obesity, diabetes and premature mortality from heart disease and stroke for decades. But it’s long past time to stop forcing Americans to follow it.