Levi, who supports menu-labeling measures, says the No. 1 offender in the foodservice industry is large portion sizes. “When we eat out, we tend to eat more because it’s a special occasion, but if we don’t know how much we’re consuming then there’s no way to balance that out later,” he says.
The report also says many state and federal policies aimed at reducing or preventing obesity lack comprehensive approaches. For example, while the Dietary Guidelines for Americans were updated in 2005, the USDA school meal program has yet to adopt the recommendations.
In addition to federal changes, the report spotlights the high rates of obesity in the South. Mississippi, with the highest rating (31.7 percent), has nearly double the percentage of obese adults as Colorado, which ranked last place with 18.4 percent. According to Levi, the difference is not so much attributed to regional taste preferences, as it is to higher poverty rates in the South. “People who are poor eat calorie-dense food, which is less expensive,” he says. “That’s a solution that may be beyond the restaurant industry.”
The report advises setting a national goal of reversing the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015. Some of the key policy recommendations it makes are: improving the nutritional quality of food available in schools, improving access to affordable nutritious food, and eliminating the marketing of junk food to children.