Most of the conflict over food is waged at home, where we can’t resist a second helping or a midnight snack. But most families eat at least a third of their daily calories away from the home, Shah said, “so strategies to eat healthy are essential.”
Many people either pretend ignorance as to the number of calories in the fast foods they consume or generously grant themselves special dispensation outside the home. Ulster is one of nine New York counties that presently require chain restaurants to post calorie counts of the foods they serve. Next year, federal law will require all fast-food chains to post calorie counts.
“I Choose 600,” the state anti-obesity program launched in February, encourages New Yorkers to check the calorie counts of foods served by fast-food restaurants and choose meals that total 600 calories or less. If most people eat no more than three 600-calorie meals and consume 200 calories more in snacks, they can maintain a healthy weight, said Shah. In order for people to meet that 2000-calorie-maximum goal, he suggested a strategy of substituting ingredients (“lower-calorie food options”) and reducing portions.
Flanking Shah at the temporary podium in the mall food court on Tuesday morning were county executive Mike Hein, who has been tireless in stating his determination to make Ulster the healthiest county in the state, and local health commissioner Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. They expressed confidence that Ulster had the leadership, talent, creativity and willingness to change to achieve its goals.
Shah too was optimistic. “All the stars are aligned for success,” the state health commissioner said.
It was suggested that other unique players in the health-care scenario — the hospitals, primary-care and specialist providers, the community competitors — must be taken into account. Shah deflected a response to his local colleagues.
The key word, Hasbrouck responded, was partnership. A Healthy Ulster Network has been established to foster communications among providers. And an Ulster County Planning Council is tasked with developing strategies.
“It’s going to take an ongoing effort by everyone in our community to achieve success,” Hein said, “and I’m confident we can get the job done.”++