Tuesday 6 December 2016

A chicken wrap can save time on the treadmill -- and calorie counts show it

Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent

Published 03/02/2012 | 05:00

Leona Courtney and Frances Douglas at yesterday's announcement by the FSAI that there is to be a national consultation on putting calorie information on menus
Leona Courtney and Frances Douglas at yesterday's announcement by the FSAI that there is to be a national consultation on putting calorie information on menus

CHOOSING a cappuccino instead of a latte could save you 65 calories while a chicken wrap instead of a quarter pounder would spare you 200 unnecessary calories.

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That's the kind of saving that would take you nearly half an hour of running to burn up on a treadmill.

Health Minister James Reilly warned yesterday that if cafes and fast food outlets don't start displaying how many calories are in their products, he will introduce legislation to force them to do so.

That's because international research has shown that printing calorie counts on menus makes a big and lasting impact on what consumers choose to eat.

A survey in America found that people eat 152 fewer calories in hamburger joints, 73 less calories in sandwich bars and 6pc fewer calories per day overall since legislation was introduced forcing outlets to display calorie counts. These results have been sustained in the 11 months since the legislation was introduced.

Dr Reilly and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) yesterday launched a public consultation in Dublin to give consumers and businesses the chance to give their views on how calories should be displayed.

Extras

The FSAI highlighted the way little extras add up -- for example, a dollop of cream in your coffee can add 80 calories, while a squirt of flavoured syrup will add 65 calories.

And adding full-fat mayonnaise to a sandwich or salad can add 140 calories -- out of a recommended daily intake of 2,000 for women, 2,500 for men and 1,800 for children.

Health authorities here now want Irish outlets to show the calorie count alongside the price, as this is crucial to reducing our growing obesity problem, Dr Reilly said yesterday.

In Ireland the Insomnia coffee chain has already put calorie information on its menus , but fast-food outlet McDonald's gives this information on tray liners, meaning you don't see it until after you've got your order.

Irish people are already the second fattest in Europe, and it is particularly worrying that one-in-four three-year-olds is overweight or obese, said Dr Reilly.

"If we don't tackle this, we will be the very first generation to bury the one after us," he said.

He warned the industry that if it doesn't voluntarily start displaying calorie counts, then he won't hesitate to introduce legislation.

"This government believes in consultation and compromise and conciliation, but if that fails and the industry does not come to the party, then the train is leaving the station," he said.

Many people are not aware that some snacks provide most of the calories they need in a day and the huge portions we've got used to promote oblivious overeating, warned the FSAI.

"In Ireland, we're used to the 'buckets' of popcorn and litre-sized drinks and we don't notice the extra-thick bread and large rolls in sandwich bars," said Dr Mary Flynn, the FSAI's chief specialist in public health nutrition.

"Food businesses supply what consumers demand. Research has shown that putting calories on menus creates a demand for healthier options."

The FSAI said it can provide technical support to food businesses to help them calculate calorie contents.

Three out of every five adults in Ireland is now overweight and obesity levels have trebled in men and doubled in women since 1990.

Obesity in adults is defined as having a weight to height ratio (body mass index) of more than 30 -- ie, being roughly two stone overweight.

In children it's more difficult to define as their shape changes so much as they grow, but some experts say it's when body fat exceeds 25pc in boys and 32pc in girls.

People can give their views via a questionnaire on the FSAI website at www.fsai.ie.

Irish Independent

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