Friday, July 24, 2009

Show Me the Info!

When I started this whole "get healthy" thing, I started keeping close track of how many calories I was putting in my mouth every day. I started looking up the calorie count and portion size for foods I made at home and tried to do the same for meals I was eating out. Many of my favorite fast food places had pretty extensive nutrition info available online: Starbucks, Sonic, Wendy's, Arby's, etc. And, after seeing exactly how much of my daily allotment would be wasted (or even exceeded) on a Sonic burger and fries, I stopped going. Knowledge was power. I was able to pinpoint the thing that had kept me from losing the extra weight before: severely underestimating my calorie intake.

It got harder when we'd eat out, as our group of friends does frequently. Most of our favorite restaurants are locally owned and, therefore, don't provide nutrition info. I think it's ridiculous that they're not required to have this information on hand, but because they aren't chains, I can sort of understand. What gets me is the fact that so many "sit-down" restaurant chains refuse to make their nutritional information public. I assumed they'd be regulated by the same laws that force fast-food restaurants to publish their info.

Not so. Restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen, Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, TGIFriday's, Applebees, etc. don't offer any nutrition facts on their website. You have to rely on third party diet websites with estimations, if any exist. These places make excuses like different restaurants using different food distributors that might cause difference in calories between dishes made at different restaurants. Another, Chevy's, said that they change their menu to include seasonal items and local food and, therefore, can't maintain a nutrition list. Bull. There are a few restaurants I've found that do have their nutrition info online, like Houlihans and Ruby Tuesday. And, the facts they post aren't all that flattering to them...1200 calories for one burger?? The others are just hiding the fact that many of their dishes are worse for you than a Big Mac Value Meal.

I want restaurants (chain and locally owned) to be required by law to produce nutrition estimates for their food. Even if there could be variations between individual stores, I think those variations would be fairly slight. I already assume that there could be difference between what nutrition facts say and how an individual cook might prepare it (as in using more butter or oil in the prep process than they're supposed to, etc.). I just need a ballpark. Maybe if they're so embarressed by the poor nutritional quality of their food, restaurants would be compelled to create healthier dishes or find ways to prepare their current menu items in healthier ways. I realize that some people don't want to think about how bad the food is that they're eating. But some of us do. These places need to at least give consumers the option of making health choices that are informed by calorie/fat content numbers rather than personal guess work.

1 comment:

  1. Amen!! That is so frustrating to me as well because I eat out at least once or twice every week. Why aren't they required to do that? I used to work at ruby tuesday and we had our nutrition ON THE MENU. Now-- that didn't last that long because it turns out most people were a bit turned off to have a veggie burger with 40 grams of fat... but I think it should at least be available on the website for those who care enough to look.