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OP-ED: Steps Not Calories

Let’s forget about listing calories on menus and list the time it takes to burn the calories that you are about to order and eat. What if we listed the number of steps or the time needed to burn the calories you are about to eat rather than the calories in our meals?

A health group recently came out with an article that bashes high-calorie restaurant food as a major reason for the epidemic obesity. They suggested that we list the calories on the menus, so people can make an informed decision. But recently a number of studies have shown that it may not have an impact. But since most people dislike exercising, why not list the time it takes to walk off the calories you are about to eat?

A pork belly-topped cheeseburger, a sandwich stuffed with mozzarella sticks, and a 1,540-calorie slice of cheesecake were among the dishes that a U.S. health advocacy group singled out on Tuesday for over-the-top fat and sodium content. Would you eat this if you knew that you would have to walk for 13 hours and 38 minutes to burn those calories in order to just maintain your weight?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest unveiled the group of “honorees,” from companies including Denny’s Corp, Cheesecake Factory Inc., Kahala Corp’s Cold Stone Creamery, and DineEquity, Inc.’s Applebee’s and IHOP.

Each serving of the award-winning menu items nearly reaches, or even surpasses, the recommended daily totals for calorie intake (up to 2,000 a day), saturated fat (up to 20 g, or 0.7 oz), and sodium (up to 1,500 mg).

The dishes are mostly twists on the usual suspects of burgers, dessert and all things fried. Denny’s “Fried Cheese Melt,” for instance, is a grilled cheese sandwich with four fried mozzarella sticks inside. The entree provides 1,260 calories and 21 grams of saturated fat, not to mention 3,010 milligrams of sodium. Or you need to walk 6 hours to burn those calories.

Applebee’s “Provolone Stuffed Meatballs with Fettuccine” contains 1,520 calories and 43 grams of saturated fat and you need to walk 7 hours and 15 minutes or you will gain weight.

The Cheesecake Factory’s “Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake” goes beyond the usual by alternating two pieces of red velvet cake with two pieces of cheesecake, racking up to 1,540 calories and 59 grams of saturated fat and need to walk 7hrs and 21 minutes to burn those calories, or you wake up the next morning heavier then when you went to sleep.

And Cold Stone Creamery’s “PB&C Shake” (peanut butter & chocolate) has 2,010 calories and 68 grams of saturated fat. Would you walk 9 hours and 35 minutes? Or just decide to gain the weight?

Two out of three Americans are overweight, and such dishes increase their risk of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and cancer, according to Bonnie Liebman, the center’s director of nutrition.

People often see dining out as an indulgence and a time when they do not pay much attention to their diets. The U.S. government is trying to push restaurants to disclose nutritional information on their menus. The Food and Drug Administration plans to issue rules requiring restaurants to list nutritional and caloric information by the end of 2011.

Why not list how long you will have to walk to burn the calories that you are about to eat?

Steve Freed, Publisher, Diabetes In Control, Inc.

Send me your comments to publisher@diabetesincontrol.com