After looking at the food display at Faye’s @ the Square, Jovana Obradovic quickly decides against certain purchases.
“I see the pastries and the calories are posted right next to the price,” said Obradovic, a junior at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Sipping a coffee with nonfat milk, Obradovic added that she and her friends weren’t as health-conscious at chains back home, but now they think twice about certain foods. “I’m disgusted by the calorie count,” she said.
Like several of her classmates at New York University, Obradovic is mindful of her calorie intake at the campus Starbucks on W. 4th—largely because of the city’s requirement for chain’s to post calorie counts clearly on their menus.
“It’s disturbing when you’re like, ‘Why is that cookie 400 calories?’” explained Kayla Flaherty, Steinhardt junior. Though she’s in Starbucks at least once a day, Flaherty said she stays away from the pastries, and only occasionally treats herself to a latte at around 200 calories whereas she usually purchases a regular coffee with skim milk.
Likewise, Eric Herbst, sophomore at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, is well versed in the calorie-counts of his favorite Starbucks drinks. “This is a Skinny Iced Tall Caramel Macchiato and it’s 100 calories,” he said, explaining he doesn’t order food at Starbucks because of the high calorie counts. “If I wanted that to be one of my meals, I might,” he added.
New Yorkers have long felt the impact of their high-calorie choices in food chains. In January 2008, the Board of Health voted to require the city’s chain restaurants to clearly display calorie information on menus, according to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The law, which the city began to enforce later that year, was part of a larger initiative to reduce obesity, explained a 2008 report by the Public Health Association of New York.
“They help me make my decision,” explained Ashley Baratian, Leonard N. Stern School of Business sophomore. Baratian enjoyed a petite vanilla scone for 170 calories—significantly less than the 420-calorie doughnut she was considering.
Though she makes healthier choices using the calorie postings, Baratian doubts their effectiveness on combating obesity. “I still see people getting stuff with more calories,” she said.
Professors at NYU and Yale University were also curious about the posting’s usefulness. A study published by those professors in the November 2009 issue of Health Affairs found that half of consumers surveyed in low-income minority communities noticed the calorie postings but only 28 percent of them said the information had an impact on their purchase. The authors noted that their findings are limited, particularly with the group of consumers surveyed, but concluded that food habits are “notoriously resistant to change.”
Though Greenwich Village is far from a low-income minority community, some NYU students interviewed seem to echo the report’s findings.
“I glance at them,” Gallatin senior Melissa Oketani said. “I feel like I should, but I don’t really count calories.”
While Stern junior Jon doesn’t use the calorie counts to eat healthier, he still tries to be nutritious. “I guess I have an intuition about nutrition and what I’m eating,” he said.
Photo credit: This photo was found using Google.com and is from the CollegeProwler website here.
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