I read with interest last week the difference of opinion between our family blogger, Jenn, and our lifestyle blogger, Starre, when they both weighed in about New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large sodas. Jenn believes the ban is over-reaching while Starre thinks the ban makes sense.

Personally, I’m skeptical the ban will make much of a difference, and I often wonder what could work to get the public’s attention? Today, I was reading Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog, and someone named Stephanie made a comment on one of Nestle’s posts about the big-soda ban that intrigued me:

"I don’t see this having any positive effect. The mayor said he wants people to have to stop and think about how much they are drinking, but people will drink what they what, a more successful tactic for getting people to think about what they drink would be to have them order the size by the total calories!"

Order by the total calories — now that’s intriguing. If we translate this to soda, it would look something like this: A 12-ounce Coca Cola (let’s call that a small) has 140 calories. A 16-ounc Coca Cola has 187 calories (let’s call that a medium), and the 20-ounce size has 240 calories (let’s call that a large – although many larges in fast-food restaurants or movie theaters are larger than that).

If fast-food restaurants had to put calorie counts on the menu instead of the words small, medium and large, would that actually be something that would make a difference? I think it might. I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but it’s one of the few ideas I’ve heard that has me thinking, “Now here’s something that might work.”

A couple of years ago, the calorie count on the front of a package of Peanut M&M’s stopped me from an impulse buy in the check-out lane at 10 p.m. The front of the package actually said that the package contained two servings and that each serving was 240 calories. After quickly doing the math, I didn’t buy the candy.

Perhaps having to order by calorie count would get people to stop and think before they ordered. Let’s move away from soda for a moment. If someone had to say, out loud, when they ordered French fries at McDonald’s, “I’ll have the 500-calorie fries,” instead of saying, “I’ll have the large fries,” perhaps they would choose the 230-calorie fries (a small) instead.

I know that many places are now required to put the calorie count on the menu for all to see, but that's easy to shove to the back of your mind. But, if people actually had to say the calorie count out loud, it might make a difference.

Maybe. What do you think?

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

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Order by the calories? Intriguing idea
Would you like the 140-, 187- or 240-calorie soda?