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By on March 20th, 2013

Whilst it could be argued that New York Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to ban large sugary drinks is a bit of an overreach which probably won’t make much of a difference for anyone jonesing for a sugar fix (people can’t just buy two or more smaller drinks?), and personally I’d push for a cigarette ban over a soda ban any day, some health measures undertaken in the Big Apple are actually quite good. The last time I was at a chain restaurant in Manhattan I found the calorie counts on the menu quite helpful and although I am not inclined to eat especially poorly, it did help me avoid some things that were far more caloric than I would have expected.

What I like even better is this idea (via Scientific American) to add information to food and drink labels that estimates how much exercise you would need—that is, how far you would have to walk—to burn off what you consumed. When I started running 15 years ago, it was usually on a treadmill which, in addition to distance, estimated how many calories I was burning. Now, mind you, that was likely not especially precise, but was a good ballpark estimate, and I got into the habit after that of looking at the calorie counts in various types of junk food and realizing how much I would have to run to offset its consumption. I like  running, but still… And as the Scientific American article points out, experiments were conducted that showed that people who were exposed to the walking distance data were inclined to consume fewer calories than those who received no nutritional data, or calorie counts only.

I do like the idea of providing information that shows the consequences of certain activities rather than outright banning things.