Making the Macaroni Grill Healthier

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For starters, calorie labeling in California is having a big effect--on the companies, if not customers. The chains are madly cutting down on calories. The most impressive example is a Macaroni Grill 1,270-calorie scallop-and-spinach salad (I can't even imagine how they did this), which is now just a normal 390.

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has a website devoted exclusively to calorie and other menu labeling initiatives where it tracks the legislation year by year and posts a handy map of what states and cities are doing on this issue.

And the latest issue of JAMA has a commentary by David Ludwig and Kelly Brownell about why it's important to get calorie labeling in place even before we can get evidence for its effectiveness: "For some of the most important public health problems today, society does not have the luxury to await scientific certainty...For restaurant calorie labeling regulation, there is a clear rationale for action."

As to how well the system is working, try the Wall Street Journal's take on the accuracy of the calorie counts. Sigh. Plenty of work left to do on this one. But worth doing, no?

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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