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John Cortinas knows exactly how many calories he gets.
The government's 54-year-old meteorologist chews a salad at a chipotle in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he says he carefully reads the calorie counts on the menu options.
"I am seeking to make healthy choices," he said. "I watch my weight," Cortinas said, nodding at the diet lemonade he bought to go with his salad.
Cortinas said he was aware and grateful for the labeling requirements of the Food and Drug Administration, which came into force on Monday. "I pay more attention to the low-calorie options," he said.
It took a long time to get here, but in all restaurants with 20 or more outlets, calories and other nutritional information must be on their menus. These include popcorn popcorn and drinks in bars.
The Affordable Care Act of 2010 challenged the labels, but the FDA has since been negotiating with industry and Congress.
Many restaurant chains have published these calorie numbers for years. Others have fought hard against them, and a year ago, the FDA postponed the labeling requirement for a year.
There will be no delay from Monday.
"Giving you calorie information in foods can help you make more informed decisions about your diet – decisions that can help improve your overall health and family," said the FDA.
"And that's just as important that you and your family have access to this information when you eat, as you do at home, when you're able to look at calorie counter on food packaging."
Chipotle, Focusing on burritos, tacos and salad bowls, it offers a breakdown of ingredients. Thus, the menu tells the guests that a burrito can deliver between 740 and 1,210 calories, depending on rice (210 calories), beans (130 calories), salsa (15-80 calories) or cheese (110 calories). 19659004] "What's good is not just understanding the total calories, but the calorie counts of the ingredients of what you have," Cortinas said.
Celis De La Cruz also estimates calorie counts. "I'm not carbohydrates," she said as she plummeted from the same Silver Spring chipotle. "Just about everything I get is salads – lettuce and chicken," added the 40-year-old analyst. "I'm one of those people who can eat the same for lunch every day."
The menu labels are nothing new at Silver Spring. The suburb of Washington, D.C. Located in Montgomery County, which met its own menu requirements in 2010.
The idea behind the laws, both at the federal and local levels, is to help Americans control their weight. With over 40 percent of the American population overweight, and over 70 percent either obese or overweight, the need is grim.
"For consumers who want to consume less calories, information about calories and other nutrients have the potential to save lives and improve," said Susan Mayne, director of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Some studies have shown that menu names do not affect consumer behavior. Most customers in a Panera bread around the corner from Chipotle said they had not paid attention.
"I just eat what I want to eat," said a man in his thirties who did not want to give his name when he ate a bagel (about 300 calories) with peanut butter spread (250 calories)
But Allen, a 48-year-old IT security specialist who did not want to give his full name said he memorized the calories of fast food chains.
"I'm looking to make sure it's not overly high," he said as he finished a sandwich in a Panera. "I usually keep it at around 500 calories, you have three meals a day, and you get 1,500 to 2,000 calories for a day."
He estimates his own sandwich provides 400 calories. "The chips are around 80," he said. "It is not so bad."
A Panera Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich is the low calorie option of the 440 calorie restaurant chain, although the flatbread sandwiches cost less than 400 calories. A steak and white cheddar panini roasts 940 calories.
It is this type of information that people really need to make decisions, the Center for Science argues in the public interest. The CSPI has been publishing spectacular annual reports on the calorie, fat and salt content of meals at popular restaurant chains for decades, and filed a lawsuit to force the federal government to pass the menu labeling law. Without it, it would be hard to say that the Louisiana Chicken Pasta (2,330 calories) is much tougher on the waist than the four cheese pastas (1,190 calories) in the Cheesecake Factory, "said the CSPI in a statement on Published Monday.
"The numbers tell you it's about 1,000 calories more, and at Starbucks, a big caffè mocha with whole milk and whipped cream (400 calories) has five times as many calories as a great fat-free cappuccino (80 calories)."
Cleveland Clinic Nutritionist, Kristin Kirkpatrick, thinks the labels are good
"There are many more things I think we need to do as consumers demand more and more information from their food and drink," she said you.
"But it will definitely reveal a little more and we'll see – time will tell if the behavior will change."
Even if it's a special treat, the calories fall on the menu, Aaron said Kimbrough, manager of a Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Parlor in Silver Spring
"It's funny, some people joke about it," he said. "I had a wife last weekend, she wanted a scoop of ice cream with the lowest calorie content," he added.
But Kimbrough said he doubted that the calorie list changed the behavior of most customers. "You know, when you come here, you do not want to save calories," he said, laughing.