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July 22, 2013

Eating Out Without Overeating

Author Affiliations
  • 1Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, Los Angeles, California
JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(14):1283-1284. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6169

Just like many working parents, I eat out a lot with my family. Stopping at the supermarket after work to buy fresh food and then preparing it at home is a nice idea, but my children and I would have starved long ago if we had waited for it to happen.

Since restaurants of all types keep me and my family fed, I have greatly appreciated calorie labels on menus. In fact, I confess that I frequently ordered McDonald’s french fries until I saw that a large size had 570 calories. (Who knew? I thought I was doing well by ordering a vegetable.) Indeed, with the increased inclusion of calorie labels, McDonald’s has reduced the calories in a large french fry order to 500 calories.1 The motivation of restaurants to reduce calorie counts of their foods owing to the greater transparency required by food labeling regulations has been a particularly welcome development, especially since a review of studies on the impact of point-of-service menu labeling on consumer choice concluded that the association is weak or inconsistent.2

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1 Comment for this article
Where even libertarians must draw the line
David L. Keller, M.D. | Providence Medical Group
As a person with libertarian inclinations, my belief is that people should be free to indulge in harmful vices, such as Dr. Katz's french fries. Substances such as salt, sugar and saturated fat are necessary and unavoidable components of even the healthiest diet. I believe it is improper for a government to tell Dr. Katz, "you may eat only 7 fries and no more" or to regulate the normal components of his diet in any such way. However, even extreme libertarians recognize that there is no place for benzene or plutonium in the food chain. I put trans fats in that same category: they are completely artificial, they are harmful and the only rational approach to benzene, plutonium or trans fats in the food supply is the same for each: "zero tolerance". In summary, saturated fats are bad in excess but let the individual decide how healthy they wish their diet to be. Trans fats are not found in nature, are not for human consumption, and should be as illegal as heroin.