Health care debate needs to focus on food

Written By Scott Joseph On August 11, 2009

Mike Thomas had a good column in the Sentinel today about the effect that overweight people have on the cost of health care in America. This just begins to scrape the surface of what this country has been ignoring as a big, fat epidemic. 

This topic has been a concern of mine for many years.

As someone who eats professionally, I am constantly amazed at the number of obese people who eat only as an avocation! The problem, I believe, is that most people have no idea what they’re eating. A plate of food is placed before them, either at home or in a restaurant, and they’re programmed to eat everything presented. (Eat your dinner or you won’t get dessert. Dessert!!!) And yet very few restaurant chefs — or home cooks, for that matter — have any training in presenting nutritionally balanced meals. Instead, their goal is to impress with portion sizes, show value in the case of restaurants, show love in the case of home meals.

What’s the solution? Nutritional labeling is a good start, and I would advocate it not only for fast food joints like McDonald’s and BK but also for fine dining restaurants. Every chef knows exactly how much he or she is putting on the plate before it is delivered to the table, from the size of the protein to the number of ounces of sauce ladled over it. A computation of the nutritional value of the dish would be only a keystroke away. Then we can do the math for ourselves, because ultimately that’s what it is, simple addition and subtraction: count the number of calories consumed; count the number of calories burned; make sure what you burn is equal to or more than you consume. (This oversimplification doesn’t address the quality of the calories — let’s get the weight down and then discuss cholesterol and sodium.)

But nutritional labeling is not likely. Restaurants don’t want us to know what we’re eating. And we don’t want to know what we’re eating either; comfort food would stop being comforting and would become just another thing to worry about.

So we continue to overeat in blissful ignorance, cursing the dry cleaners for shrinking our pants — again!

Your thoughts?


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