New labeling regulations for vending machines will make it easier to count calories before purchasing a snack. But will it make a difference?

As part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law, calorie information will be displayed on approximately 5 million vending machines nationwide. The theory is that by seeing the calories before buying the snacks, consumers can make healthier choices.

Kelly Fisher, an outpatient dietitian at Cook Children’s Medical Center, hopes that the all the information will help people make an informed decision.

“The nutrition information is already on the packages inside a vending machine, but you don’t have the ability to look at if before you have already paid and it has been dispensed to you,” Fisher said. “Even if you look at it then, you may choose to consume it anyway because you have already purchased it.  I would hope it would encourage people to take a look at the content of items before they pay and to compare to make the best choice.  Generally in our weight management programs we recommend that snacks stay under 150 calories or less.  It is also important to look for trans-fat free packaged foods.”

 The vending machine information is the latest in a national effort to provide helpful caloric content. The Food and Drug Administration is working on final rules to require restaurant chains with more than 20 locations to post calories information.

In fall 2014, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids act of 2010 will take effect, which  sets new calorie standards at the elementary (kindergarten through 5th grade), middle school (6th through 8th) and high school levels. Elementary has a daily calorie limit of 550-650 for elementary school students, 600-700 for middle school and 750-850 for high school.

 Although the information is provided, Julie DuBois, a clinical dietitian at Cook Children’s, said it still depends on the consumer.

“Providing this information is not going to change habits unless the people are seeking to change those habits,” said Julie DuBois, a clinical dietitian at Cook Children’s. “It is helpful information for calories to be provided on menus, for example, but since most vending items have a label already, I don’t anticipate it will make a huge impact on the obesity epidemic, but I’m not sure if that’s the goal. I do think it could be one tool to help in that fight.”

We want to know what you think? Will this change anyone’s mind? Do you approve of calories counting becoming mandatory? We want to hear from you.

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