Knowing the number of calories doesn't make a BigMac less tasty
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Another reality check is about to bounce as McDonald's begins posting calorie counts for its menu items this week.
Like we care.
Have you seen what we stuff ourselves with? Have you seen our portion sizes? Have you seen your feet lately?
If we cared about eating right, we wouldn't surround ourselves with tacos made out of orange nacho chips, pizza boxes the size of regulation squash courts and filled with puffy bread products smothered in greasy cheese, or a single serving of soda that's more than half a quart.
McDonald's has taken this step to help its customers "make nutrition-minded choices."
News flash: If you are in the drive-thru at McDonald's, you have already decided not to make a nutrition-minded choice.
You can't eat a salad while driving. You are about to consume something that will ooze through the fingers of one hand while you use the other to dial your phone and mop ketchup off your lap. (You're steering with your knees.)
Calorie counts are meant to help diners gauge how much of the recommended daily intake is covered by this Big Mac or large fries. But only 15 percent of us know how many calories we're supposed to have in a day, and that's pretending there's a magic number you can memorize and shoot for.
Like most things, it's more complicated than that simple math. Your recommended daily calorie intake changes with your age and activity level. Are you sedentary? Do you go to two 90-minute yoga classes a week? Do you bike on weekends in good weather? Do you walk to work? How far? Stairs or elevator? When? Run for the bus? Triathlete?
Bottom line: It's impossible to know exactly how many calories you need to maintain your weight. But given the stats on American obesity, I can pretty much promise you it's fewer than most of us ate yesterday.
Besides, there's more to it than calories. There's also what's IN food, and I'm not going to shock anyone by saying fat, salt and sweeteners aren't doing us any favors. There are children nowadays who consume as much salt as your Uncle Frank, who is 55, looks 70 and deep fries aspirin.
Solid fats and added sugars make up 35 percent of the American diet. They're known as SoFAS, because that's how big they make you.
Having the evidence of our overindulgence right in our faces isn't going to stop us. As someone who has deliberately purchased a Baconator and found it wildly tasty, I know this for a fact.
The nutritional information about fast food, including calorie counts, fat content and even grams of carbohydrate, have been available for years, at the counters, under the placemat and/or online. We just ignore it.
We'll spend all day GoogleFacing and watching cats playing mah jongg online, but we haven't got time to discover that the "healthy" salad you like to order for lunch actually leaves you enough calories at dinner to enjoy three string beans and a piece of kale.
I don't mean to scold you. I'm guilty, too. And I don't mean to single out McDonald's, which at least made apple slices available in Happy Meals and is trying to figure out a way to grill, rather than deep fry, McNuggets -- and still make them the one thing everyone knows kids will eat.
There's no profit margin in McGrapefruit, and we eat fast food because it's really, really tasty. It's engineered to be tasty. It's not really engineered to be good for you.
The food that keeps you fit and healthy is at the farm stand and in the produce aisle.
Crunching numbers at the drive-thru will never do as much good as crunching celery, and we know it.
If only we were tempted by a blissful inhale and the words, "Do you smell ... celery?"
First Published September 20, 2012 12:00 am