Banning the burger ... people are prepared to change their habits and make new, healthier choices, says Michelle Bridges.

Banning the burger ... people are prepared to change their habits and make new, healthier choices, says Michelle Bridges. Photo: Getty

Something weird is happening in America. They've all stopped eating. Okay, that is a slight exaggeration, but something has definitely changed.

I don't get to the US that often, and in fairness I've never been to the South or the Midwest, where the obesity epidemic is in full flight. I tend to find myself in New York or Los Angeles, either on holiday or checking out what's going on in the fashion world.

On the latest occasion it was New York that was calling my credit card, and doing a pretty fine job. I also had a few meetings, which was great as you can get to know New Yorkers and see them at work as well as play. Americans are friendly and attentive, so there are always interesting conversations – plus they love us Aussies (and why wouldn't you?).

American business is frequently done over lunch, so I was looking forward to checking out some groovy eateries and seeing what turns up on the typical lunch-time menu. And there was the surprise. No burgers, sliders or hand-cut chips. No smoothies or frappa-dappa-cinos. Oh no. We are in the land of the kale salad with roasted salmon. Of arugula (that's rocket to us) with crumbled feta. Of mixed market greens with the olive oil dressing served on the side, thank you. And the portions were, well, normal. In fact, they were a bit on the small side.

Wine? Beer? Oh no. A pot of mint tea, please. And another bottle of sparkling mineral water, thank you. I know that my experience wasn't a true reflection of the majority of Americans' eating habits, but it seems to represent the beginning of something.

My hosts explained that cultural change in the US starts in New York on the east coast and Los Angeles on the west coast. From there, it gradually spreads to the rest of the country. Now while that's a bit simplistic and slightly parochial, it seems that there's a shift happening in even the heaviest (I'm not allowed to say fattest, apparently – not sure why) country in the world. It shows people are prepared to change their habits and make new, healthier choices.

It's refreshing when a society collectively starts to take a different direction for the better. Come on, Australia. We can do it.

Michelle's tip
When eating out, choose a dish that has high-quality ingredients rather than a meal that may have more volume, but fewer nutrients.