Dear friends; let me paint you a picture. You are dining at a restaurant. You are surrounded by your family, and you are having a great time. The food you have ordered looks amazing, and the service is faultless. There is no way that anything could spoil this perfect night, right?
Wrong. [change slide] For many people, including me, a perfect night out can be turned into a chore, as we have to navigate the confusing, complicated and ever-changing carb count of meals out. A few restaurants, such as Macdonald’s, Subway and Pizza Express, have started to provide nutritional information on their websites- and better still, on their menus. However it simply isn’t enough.
A hormone called insulin is produced in our- well, your- pancreas to use the energy gained from breaking down the carbs that we eat. However, Diabetes is a chronic disease that either stops or reduces the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. When your body doesn’t produce any insulin, it is called type one Diabetes, and this means that your body is unable to use the carbs that you are eating. This causes the body to break down stored fat instead, which slowly starts to make the blood more acidic until eventually it can lead to serious health issues.
People who are living with Type 1 Diabetes have to calculate how many carbohydrates are in their food, and inject insulin accordingly. This can be difficult, especially since injecting too much or too little insulin can cause our bodies serious harm. If restaurants provided information about what their foods contained, a lot of time, effort and stress could be saved.
On the piece of paper that I have given you, it tells you what meal you are having and how many carbs are in it. Please keep it safe, as this information could be very useful.
Dear friends, many people believe that this isn’t a big issue, as diabetics are a minority, and therefore all of this doesn’t matter. However, this is far from the truth. According to a recent survey, around four million people are living with diabetes in the UK. This is 6% of the total population in our country, or one in every sixteen people, diagnosed or undiagnosed. And that is just in the UK. Every two minutes, someone in the world is diagnosed with diabetes, and inaccurate labelling and measurement of carbohydrates can lead to serious health impacts and, in some cases, death.
In September 2018, a 9-year-old girl named Sophia Daugherty slipped into a coma and died due to hypoglycemia. This was caused by the inaccurate labelling of carbs in a food product, which could have easily been avoided if that company, and others too, had been more careful with their nutritional information. As someone who often struggles when counting carbs, this makes me shocked, disgusted and a little worried.
However, all of this wouldn’t just help Diabetics. Have any of you ever wanted to know exactly what goes into your food? [Wait for show of hands] I think that I speak for most people when I say that restaurants don’t give you much information about the content of their meals. And isn’t it important to know what we are putting into our bodies?
Most people know that there are five main food groups that you should have in the right amounts for a balanced diet- carbohydrates, protein, dairy, fruit and vegetables, and fats and sugars. Most people also know that you should have these in certain amounts. But what if you were misinformed about what is in your food, or you weren’t told at all? What if you had too much of this [tap fats and sugars], and too little of this? [tap fruit and veg]
If you don’t have a balanced diet, after a while your body could suffer from health consequences. For example, if you eat too many foods from the fats and sugars category, your body will gain weight and body fat too. This is pretty common knowledge. However, if you don’t have enough fat in your diet, it can lead to hormonal problems, including the loss of menstruation, the inability to feel full or satisfied by meals and problems concentrating.
Therefore, by providing information about the ingredients and the nutritional value of their meals - even if it is just online - restaurants could potentially help a lot of people avoid the consequences of an unbalanced diet and maintain healthy eating habits. Seven out of eight people agree that restaurants do not provide enough data about this, meaning that this is something that a lot of people agree should be improved upon.
There are a few people, however, who disagree, saying that restaurants shouldn’t have to provide nutritional information for their customers. Most often this is based upon the idea that adding these details to menus, it would mean that restaurants would have to spend money on designing, printing and providing these updated menus. Doing this would result in an increase in food prices in order to replace the money spent. However, I am not suggesting for one minute that every single restaurant must supply new, updated menus ; I am suggesting that, although a printed copy could be easier for people, information online would also have a really positive impact. And is a few extra pence on your receipt really too much to pay in order to help so many people?
Dear friends; today I am asking restaurants to provide nutritional information so that eating out is something that everyone can enjoy.
I am asking food companies to label their products better, so that what happened to Sophia will not happen again.
I am pleading *every single one of you* [emphasise it and point to people!!!] [then pause] to contact local restaurants, politicians, anyone [pause] so that all of us know exactly what goes into our food.
Dear friends, please can you turn your attention to the pieces of paper I have given you. Is there anyone who would be willing to read out how many carbs are in fish and chips? [ask a few people, different answers]
So, which one of these is right?
[get someone to say ‘there is no way to tell though’]
Exactly. And do you want to know a secret? [pause] All of them are right, but represent different portion sizes and different restaurants. This is what makes counting carbs so hard; you just never know which one is right.
Dear friends, let me ask you a question. How many of you enjoy eating out? [pause]
How many of you would enjoy eating out if you had to go through the struggle of working out the carbohydrates in your meal? [pause]
Eating out is something that should be a special occasion; it should be enjoyed. It shouldn’t be turned into a chore or avoided entirely. Very few people don’t enjoy having a meal out, and worrying about carbs shouldn’t stop you. And who knows? In a few years, maybe the perfect picture will be complete for everyone.