Over the past five or so years I began to notice an interesting trend in fast food restaurants. As I would join the queue to order a quick and easy, yet often unfulfilling meal, my attention would find its way to this interesting chart on the wall near the queue. This chart is the nutrition facts chart that can be found in nearly every fast food establishment today. On this chart is the standard slew of information. Saturated fat, trans fat, protein, carbs, and, of course, calories, to name a few. I feel that these charts embody the American fixation with the amount of calories in the food we eat. Individuals will often forgo their favorite dining options simply to avoid the “unwanted” calories the food contained. This brings up the question of whether or not this is a good habit of society.
In his article “Time, Sugar and Sweetness,” Sidney W. Mintz argues that this is not a good habit to encourage. Oddly enough Mintz is not making this argument on the grounds of physical health, but rather on the grounds of food identity. At its most fundamental level, what is food other than the fuel of our bodies? We need calories to survive. This fixation of counting calories and producing “calorie free” food robs said food of its identity. It is no longer food, but rather a meaningless substance solely for our own enjoyment. My problem with this argument is this: who cares?
While I do agree that food, at its core, is nothing more than fuel for the human body, I, as well as many others, also take great pleasure in joy of experiencing new tastes, and being able to eat as much as I please. I think that the fad of counting calories is entirely justifiable. American food is notorious for large portion sizes, as well as it lack of nutritional content. Unfortunately, it is also delicious. This creates an issue for those individuals who do have to watch what they eat. Reducing the caloric content of these foods diminishes the burden that these individuals bear. In a sense it grants them the freedom to choose what they want to eat, rather than having to always stick to a very strict diet.
And hey, Coke Zero is some good stuff.