Monday, July 21, 2008


Calorie posting went in effect for real last week, with little hope that the information will do more than make Commissioner Frieden and his health elves feel good about themselves. In our view, the folks who will really use this info are those who are already conscious of what they're eating.

As the NY Post reported Saturday: "Knowing a Big Mac has 540 calories, some of Mickey D's customers say, does not make the two all-beef patties any less tasty. McDonald's had been one of the few holdouts in complying with a city requirement - enforceable as of today - that all chains post calorie counts on their menus. "I saw the calories, and I was, like, 'Oh, my God, I should walk out,' " said Jannika Hantso, 34, of Brooklyn, at the McDonald's on Sixth Avenue and 14th Street. Instead, she ordered her usual Big Mac, medium fries (380 calories) and medium Diet Coke (0).

We're wondering what will happen once the novelty is off. In all likelihood, the folks will soon ignore the fact that the calorie information is even there. And as one more health-conscious patron pointed out: "Rather than the Crispy Chicken Classic (530), Sasha Deneze went for the Grilled Chicken Classic (420). "Just because you eat at McDonald's," she said, "doesn't mean you have to stuff yourself."

Indeed you don't, but that means you have both the understanding and the will to implement it. The exchange caught by the NY Times at a local Burger King is instructive: “Scary, as I stand here holding, like, 3,200 calories,” said Nick Perna, a marketing specialist who had just bought a Whopper with cheese, French fries and a soft drink. A colleague, Derek Cummings, took a closer look at the sign and said the total was only 1,720 calories. According to the sign, that was the maximum for a Whopper meal. The minimum was 1,260. The range covered extras a customer could order, like extra fries and extra cheese. “I went sans cheese,” Mr. Cummings said, holding his own Whopper, “so I saved something.”

Pretty soon, as the novelty wears off, and when the urge strikes, Cummings will be back to cheese. Here's what one prescient New Yorker observed, and it underscores our feelings on all of this as well: "Some customers said the calorie counts might change people’s menu choices. But Tina Nguyen, an astrologer who was on a break from a class she was taking for a real estate license when she stopped at the Starbucks at 1372 Broadway, did not like the idea that the city had required the figures to be posted. “This is starting to feel Big Brotherish,” she said. “If they want to change our eating behavior, the city could offer courses instead of picking on these restaurants.”