2.28.2007

Food for Thought 2

I have a confession.

Dave and I are restaurant junkies.

We have a lot of different excuses and justifications for this habit:
  • Dave works from home and a lot of times that only reason that he may leave the house in a day (or few days, for that matter) is to go out to get something to eat.
  • Monday nights there is a great steak special at the Timber Creek Grill. (15 ounce ribeye for $14.95... And it is a pretty darn good steak!)
  • We have friends (ahem... Dr. Mike and Paula) who drag us out to eat, whether we want to go or not.
  • Although we have a ton of food in the house, it never seems to be enough to create a full meal.

There are lots of other reasons, but you get the picture.

We do (sometimes) try to choose items that are healthy (kind of) to eat while we are out at restaurants. For example, when we go to McGurk's, we get salads as our entrees with the small order of herb-dusted chicken wings as an appetizer. (Just thinking about them makes my mouth water!)

Anyway, I saw this article regarding restaurant menus yesterday. It talks about how the Center for Science in the Public Interest wants restaurants to begin putting nutritional information on the menus about the food that people are about to order. As much as I think that this probably is going to add some guilt to my eating out habit, I think that it is a good idea.

The article points out that some items that are on menus at restaurants have huge calorie counts that the diner is usually oblivious to when they order. For example, Ruby Tuesday's "Fresh Chicken and Broccoli Pasta," which sounds like a relatively healthy option, has 2,060 calories and 128 grams of fat!!! Personally, I would like to know that if the item I am about to order has more calories in the serving size that the restaurant is going to give me has more calories than what the average person should have in an entire day!

The article also points out that Ruby Tuesday's piloted a new menu a few years ago that included nutritional information on it. They pulled the menu when they found that patrons didn't really want to know how many calories were in what they were about to eat.

Is ignorance bliss? I think that if food companies that provide food to grocery stores for sale are responsible to disclose the nutritional information about their product, restaurants should be asked to do the same. I am not saying that it is the fault of the restaurant industry that Americans don't make more healthy choices about what they eat, however I do think that it is their responsibility to give their customers the information that is needed in order to make an educated decision.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Click here for an interesting article that I read in this morning's USA Today. It reports that TGI Friday's is leading the way in creating a more balanced menu by including smaller portions (at a smaller cost). It also contradicts the article that I linked to above, saying that 79% of consumers are concerned about the fat content in food that they order at restaurants; 73% like information about the amount of calories.

10 comments:

Paula said...

For me personally, I love the idea. I like to go places where I can look up the nutritional info before I go, (yes, I really do this). So having it on the menu, would save me some time.

Maybe if they were doing this, they would figure out ways to make their food less unhealthy. I mean come on, I can make a fantastic chicken and broccoli alfredo and not feel bad about eating it. They load up the dishes with so much salt and fat, it's really unnecessary.

blakbyrd797 said...

I'd appreciate it as well, since I do use this information to help me decide what to order when it's available.

That being said, though, if a simple pasta dish has 2000+ calories, that's a big freakin' plate of pasta...

I'm a huge advocate of being an informed consumer, but I do think we have just as much responsibility to know when we've eaten a reasonable amount and then STOP rather than stuffing ourselves to the gills on those ridiculous portion sizes and then complaining the restaurant is to blame for not listing the nutritional info. I read that article, too, and one of the things they specifically mentioned was Uno's pizza skins appetizer. Yeah, well, you don't eat the entire THING! It's cut into eight pieces for a reason!

I guess what I'm saying is that I think it would be a nice courtesy for all restaurants to provide the nutritional info, but I still feel like the ultimate responsibility lies with the customer. Accidentally eating an extra 1000 calories at dinner one time because you didn't realize how much fat was in the alfredo sauce isn't going to make anyone overweight. It's more like, "accidentally" eating extra calories at every meal every day is the problem.

Then again, if you eat out almost every day, I guess that would add up prett quick...

Fantastagirl said...

As someone who has to watch what I eat and what Mr. Incredible eats (fat content) we discovered most of the resturants have their info on their websites, and we look before we go - would it be easier for us if the info was available at the table, yes. But I think part of this should be the consumer's responsibility. We have become a society that expects everyone else to be responsible for our actions, including what we eat. and I'm tired of people not taking responsiblity for what they eat. Look it up before you go out to it - use your common sense - if it's in a creamy sauce, breaded etc it's high fat. If the entree is bigger than your fist, chances are it's more than a "serving".

rosemary said...

spouse travels and eats out all the time...I stay home and eat crap...I want to go out, he doesn't so we compromise and don't go out. I would look at the caloric/nutritional content in a restaurant for sure. Don't know if it would sway me into eating something more healthy.

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

I think it's a good thing I have a memebership at the local gym, because I love eating out.

Blogarita said...

As I mentioned in a recent post, I don't count calories, so this information wouldn't be useful to me. I don't think it necessarily needs to be on the menu. But I do think it should be AVAILABLE upon request for anyone who does want to see it.

Our biggest hangup about restaurants is the cost. Going out once in a while is fine, but we just can't justify going to a restaurant and spending $15 a plate when I could probably make a close rendition of it at home for half the price.

Dave Morris said...

Working at home is the primary reason we hit so many restaurants... I just need to get out of the house in the evenings for a little while so we end up eating somewhere.

I must admit, the dining experience is all the better when you're looking across the table at a pair of beautiful, blue eyes.

Tug said...

I think restaurants should have the information available - maybe a separate flyer with just the name of the dish (no description taking up room) and info? That way if you want it, it's there. I wouldn't care either way; if I want to order something, I do.

Mishka said...

I would love to have the info from restaurants without having to come home and look it up. I track my calories everyday and sometimes finding the info on the web is hard....like Outback for instance. Only some of their stuff can be found. The company's website doesn't have it because their portions are so oversized that you would be eating an entire days worth of calories in just an appetizer...fortunately, I always take home 1/2 from there and try to get some veggies in with my "meat and potatoes".

Jen, Fred, Jennifer or Mom said...

I'm all for the idea!!! I wish restaurants would be more conscience of how they prepare food and what they put in it.