Will You Stand Up for Menu Labeling?

1SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/8/2009 6:00 AM   :  179 comments

Americans live busy lives and eating away from home has become a way of life for many of us. Surprisingly, studies have found that one third of our calories and one half of our food dollars go to food sources outside of the home. The dailySpark launched the Diet Friendly Dining and Food on the Run series, to help our readers make informed decisions about what they purchase when dining away from home.

On a previous blog I asked the question, "what do you wish casual dining restaurants would do differently?" Many of you shared a similar sentiment as BAMOM19 when she posted, "I wish they would all offer healthier choices, but at the very least should be required to post the nutritional content of all their dishes!"

What if I told you the quest to get nutrition information on menus started in 2003? Would you wonder why you still don't routinely see the information where you dine?

The Menu Education and Labeling (MEAL) Act was first introduced to the 108th U.S. Congress in November 2003. It was introduced "to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to ensure that consumers receive information about the nutritional content of restaurant foods." At that time it followed the Congressional process, was read twice and then referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Since all proposed bills and resolutions die at the end of each Session of Congress and are cleared from the books, modifications of this bill have been made and reintroduced numerous times since 2003.

The most recent bill was reintroduced to the first session of the current 111th Session of the Congress last month. The Howard M. Metzenbaum MEAL Act was reintroduced "to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to extend the food labeling requirements of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 to enable customers to make informed choices about the nutritional content of standard menu items in large chain restaurants."

At the same time, the restaurant lobbyist have been hard at work and introduced a competing bill, the Labeling Education and Nutrition (LEAN) Act of 2009 in March 2009. This bill was introduced "to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to nutrition labeling of food offered for sale in food service establishments." It was first introduced in 2008 to the last Session of Congress but died in committee at the end of the session. As of today, both the LEAN Act and the MEAL Act have been read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions for review.

This is where politics comes in to play. With two competing pieces of legislation being considered while support is divided, the likelihood of any decision being made this time around seems very unlikely. The restaurant industry opposes the proposed MEAL Act while many health groups oppose the proposed LEAN Act. The largest reason the health community opposes the LEAN Act is because it includes measures that would nullify any state and local actions currently in place and would prevent any additional local and state measures in the future. This blog is NOT intended to be political but too simply inform you a about the legislative process that is currently taking place.

According to information from The Center for Science in the Public Interest, 78% of Americans support menu labeling while only half of the large chain restaurants provide any nutrition information about their menu items. After so many years of trying to influence change nationally with little progress, we are seeing things begin to change on the state and local level thanks to the leadership of New York City.

Last year New York City began requiring restaurants to provide basic nutrition information on menu boards, printed menus and food displays. They were the first US city to independently initiate a menu labeling system. Public reaction has been positive and many people have been surprised by the calorie counts of the foods being offered. Last week, dailySpark Guest Blogger, Birdie Varnedore, shared how "cool" she thought New York City was because of this new law.

The Bottom Line - Menu labeling allows people to make informed decisions when eating away from home. It allows people to "vote with their wallets" related to their restaurant and food preferences, which is likely the biggest reason the restaurant industry is so opposed. While it will likely take local, state and/or federal legislation to make this information routinely available, it doesn't have to. Patrons can request or even demand that this information be provided voluntarily. When mandates are put in place through legislation, it is always way more costly and time consuming than when things are done voluntarily. Perhaps the more we nutrition minded people request or even demand accurate information at the time of purchase in the places we choose to dine and spend our money, perhaps the sooner we will see voluntary menu labeling that will help us improve and maintain our health.

I think the blog comment by BIGGIRL208 makes a great deal of sense. She shared, "why blame the restaurants? They are responding to market demand. When "low carb" was in fashion, menus started featuring low-carb entrees. When low fat was in style, salads made it on to the menu - do you remember when salads were few and far between when you looked at a menu? Given that dining out (not fast food) is usually either a celebration or at least a desire to eat "tastier food", I really am not surprised at what I find on menus. It's up to us customers to start asking for different choices if we don't like what's on offer!" The same can be said for asking for nutrition information when we are ordering. What if we ALL started asking the server about the calorie, fat and sodium content of menu items when we were placing our order? At first they would likely tell us the information isn't available and try to pass it off. What if we asked to speak to the manager about the information? The manager probably wouldn't have the information either, especially for casual dining chains, but imagine if they had to be put in the uncomfortable position of not being able to provide the information numerous times each shift. Do you think they would begin to tell their superiors that they are being asked "frequently" about nutrition information for menu items?

The bottom line to me is that the power does not reside with the local, state or federal government to make change happen. The power resides with US, the nutrition minded people willing to stand up and ask and even demand that we be provided with basic nutrition information for our health in return for our hard earned dollar. I believe we CAN make a difference if we stand up together with one voice and make our desires known. As long as we continue to stay silent and wait for the politicians to make a decision that is best for them instead of demanding from restaurants what is best for us, we could be waiting another six years for information that could be provided voluntarily to us in six months.


What specific actions do you think patrons could take to persuade the restaurant industry to voluntarily provide basic menu labeling information? What are YOU willing to do to help influence change?


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Comments

  • 129
    I am of (at least) two minds on this issue. I do think that the nutritional information should be available. However, I will eat at restaurants that don't list it, as long as I can look at a menu online ahead of time and see what most of the ingredients are. Even for restaurants that do list nutritional information, how accurate do you really think that information is? When I enter recipes that I get from books or magazines into the sparkrecipe builder I almost always get different nutritional information than what was published with the recipe, so I take all published nutritional information with a large grain of salt. - 6/10/2009   11:14:42 AM
  • 128
    Whichever way the legislators decide to go (which means "whichever lobbyist has the highest bid"), I'm still not going to spend a dime at any place which does not have full nutritional information available, on their Web site if nowhere else.

    I adopted this policy four months ago, and have yet to have it be a problem. Any time I think, "gosh, I sure miss going to IHOP" (or whatever place doesn't post nutritional info), I just take ten minutes out of my day and drive by one of their locations and look at the people coming out.

    That always makes the "missing" go right away. - 6/9/2009   8:05:30 PM
  • 127
    I think restaurants should provide consumers with nutritional values of their food. We need the information. You can find most "fast food" nutritionl values on the internet, which is funny becuse they are known for making people over-weight. Yet, the more expensive restaurants can't afford to pay some-one to make nutritionl values for their menues. Doesn't make sense does it? - 6/9/2009   7:42:04 PM
  • 126
    I've actually gone online to all the "chain" restaurants here where I live and printed out their nutritional menu. I have my "favorites" where I go eat. If I can't find their nutritional menu online, I don't eat there! Other than that, it's just use good judgement! - 6/9/2009   7:24:43 PM
  • 125
    Oh, be honest, if a restaurant doesn't have their calories listed some where there or on line, you shouldn't be eating there. I just looked at that list DAN_ODEA gave the link to and it is places like CHECKERS and ZAXBY'S. You know from looking at their ads on TV that they don't serve DIET food. I went to Wendy's yesterday and they had a LARGE board up on the wall giving a detail of all their items. I got the Mandarin Chicken and in detail it gave 520 calories including the little pack of almonds, and the dressing and "noodles". I was impressed and happy it was only 520 as I thought it would be a LOT more. - 6/9/2009   5:52:24 PM
  • 124
    No matter where I go, I just order a grilled piece of meat, a salad with vinaigrette on the side, and a dry baked potato if they don't have steamed veggies. I never eat the giant dinner rolls that I used to love. I'll go for a small slice of Italian bread with no butter sometimes. I love it when you order the "steamed" veggies and they come out all oily. I just push it away and don't eat them. If the potato seems greased up I don't eat the skin and I won't put any creamy sauces on the meat.

    Long as you keep the portions small, think about what you're ordering and don't eat out often, it should work. Also, if its a free bread or a free chips and salsa place, I have them take it from the table. Its way too easy to eat 3 times as much bread or chips that you intended to just nibble on if you're in conversation and not even realize it!

    If I know where I'm going for a group lunch, I will plan ahead and try to look online. And I have all the "good" items at various fast food chains memorized so I know what to get without crashing my diet if I'm in a crunch with no Kashi Go Lean protein and fiber bars on hand. I keep a box of those in my car. =) - 6/9/2009   4:33:12 PM
  • 123
    I STOPPED eating at Bucca Di Beppo because they only list the nutritional info for a few of their menu items on their website..of course, not the chocolate cake or other desserts, only the "healthier choices" if you can call them that.
    I emailed the company and they would not give me the information I wanted. I will NEVER eat there again. Other restaurant chains either post it on their site or will email you a pdf of the nutritional info of their menu. - 6/9/2009   3:16:21 PM
  • KBMOMMA24
    122
    It would make life a lot easier if they had it listed right there on the menu.

    I usuallly try to plan before I go somewhere, by trying to find the nutrition info online. (a lot of resturants do this because of diebetics and food allergy issues.)
    of corse not everything is there and sometimes what I plan on ordering is no longer available. It's frustrating.

    I agree with mom2cat, too. I order a pasta dish at a resturant and the bowl they brought over was crazy! I scooped out a portion, packaged up the rest, and had leftovers for lunch for two days, and that's with feeding my two kids too! - 6/9/2009   2:30:26 PM
  • 121
    If the info isn't available online I just don't go there. I would love to see the info on all menu's, but understand why businesses don't want to put it there. I stopped eating at Pizza Hut because I only like certain things and everything I liked was well outside of what I was willing to put in my body. If everyone did the same thing it would be a huge loss for the resteraunt business. If they change their product to keep from losing business, they may lose other business because they changed their product. It's lose-lose for them. - 6/9/2009   2:28:43 PM
  • 120
    I would not believe them anyways, the govt. says that if has some in it they can still call it "free". I rely on my SP. teachings on how to/ what to order. - 6/9/2009   12:38:10 PM
  • 119
    Three things that may help:
    1st: When you ask about the nutrition and they have no answer, ask for the chef. Then grill the chef on the food, what additives, how cooked, any filler, what oil/butter, etc. of half the items on the menu. It takes time when s/he has customers waiting and this won't happen too often before the answers are on display. However, I don't do this in a Mom & Pop style restaurant. Just not fair.

    2nd: Always ask for a doggie bag up front. Then put half your dinner into it and ask the waiter to put it in the fridge until you go home. And emphasize that you were really served enough food for two meals and won't have to go out for dinner the next night. For the restaurant industry that means half the business and for you, a slimmer waistline.

    3rd: Compliment restaurants who do make the effort whenever you get the chance. Spread the word.. Write a note to the local editorial page mentioning how "Joe's Diner is so responsive to customer's desire for healthy food that they now offer nutritional information as well as lots of salads and low carb breads" or whatever. Instead of just complaining, we can attract converts when they realize praise is the alternative. - 6/9/2009   12:20:28 PM
  • FIREDANCER829
    118
    People have some responsibility here too - many chain restaurants have made an attempt at compromise by making the nutritional information for the majority, if not all, of the items available on their menu online. If I know I'm going to be ordering pizza, for example, I can compare the calories/fat of the different options that Papa John's has right on their website. Chili's has the nutrition info for their entire menu online.

    As someone who works in the restaurant industry, I can see both sides - economy-wise, it can really hurt a restaurant's sales to have the nutrition facts on the menu. But as a customer, I'd like to know what I'm eating!

    I do think some people are silly though...exactly how many calories did you think were in that Bacon Big Mouth Burger? - 6/9/2009   11:59:15 AM
  • MOMMAC1214
    117
    Actually I just stopped eating out. I only go out on occasion so that I do not have to worry about it. I know what I am putting in my food. Plus you can look up nitritional values before you go out. That will help you to decide where to go & what to eat before you get there. - 6/9/2009   10:45:02 AM
  • 116
    I can see both sides of the argument and even with labeling, there is always a margin for stretching the truth.....bottom line folks....common sense.

    Calories in ......calories out! You don't have to be a mathematician to figure out anything fried, loaded with butter, salt, oil, sugar, cream etc. is bad for you. And if you just have to "have it", have IT in moderation or perhaps a taste of whatever "bad" thing your dining partner/s ordered.

    There is no "MAGIC" to this. Consumer education is the key. It is up to the customer to be accountable for what he or she puts in their bodies...... - 6/9/2009   9:44:33 AM
  • 115
    Contact restaurants and let them know that you would like to see nutritional information on their menu items or you will have to dine elsewhere. I recently contacted Johnny Carina's restaurant to inquire about nutritional information. I received a response telling me that they were working on providing this information on their menus. I then received a follow-up e-mail days later saying the information should be available sometime this month.

    I doubt that they addressed this matter solely because of me. They have probably been contacted before and were already working on it. Either way, I was impressed by their quick responses -- and the e-mails were from actual corporate employees, not some generic standard response. - 6/9/2009   9:15:53 AM
  • 114
    I think people can write letters to smaller local businesses and to large corporations voicing their opinion. When one letter is received it represents a large portion of that companies total customers. If they were to get enough letters requesting nutritional info I think they would start to comply. - 6/9/2009   8:34:04 AM
  • 113
    I rarely eat out, but I will share what I do when I eat out and hopefully others will read this and follow suit!
    I always ask if they have the nutrition information.
    If not, then I ask them how they prepare their food and what all goes in the cooking process (such as butter, what kind of oil).
    If they do not know the answer to this, I leave and never come back.

    Better yet...if they don't have the nutrition info, we should probably ask to put in a written request! Or we could just send a letter to the company. :) - 6/9/2009   8:31:15 AM
  • 112
    I am all for labeling and hope that regulations are passed. As SMA123 says, it's all about being educated. Don't want to know the facts? Don't read them. Want them? Here they are. We eat out only once a week, if that, and we are definitely in the habit of voting with our forks - no fast food, and only casual dining places that provide 1) info online and 2) decent healthful choices. That way my kids can have their fries if they want them (they often choose vegetables or salad instead) and I can choose what supports my healthy lifestyle. - 6/9/2009   8:20:19 AM
  • CATFANCIER
    111
    I've had success in writing to the head office of chain restaurants that don't have their nutritional information on line. However, a local, individually run restaurant may not have the resources necessary to obtain accurate information, which requires actual laboratory testing. In fact, a labeling requirement may make it difficult for a new restaurant even to open, especially with all the other licensing, inspection, and insurance requirements at the beginning. It would also be difficult to introduce new dishes, have "chef's inspiration" or "market bargain" specials on an irregular basis, and so on, since each dish would have to be lab-tested in order to get accurate information. Besides, the actual figures might vary from day to day, since chefs in individually run restaurants don't cook from pre-packaged mixes that are uniformly calibrated.

    In other words, labeling laws would favor large chain restaurants at the expense of locals. There might be exemptions for small restaurants, but how small would "small" be considered? Some of my favorite local restaurants might not be able to operate -- or would become so standardized as to lose their identity.

    I think we have enough regulations already. - 6/9/2009   8:16:57 AM
  • 110
    I personally believe that a waiter/waitress should NOT be asked; it's not their job. If you want to try to talk to management, do so. If they don't do as you want, go somewhere else. I don't believe in bullying any kind of business into making changes & I'm definitely not for government regulations. - 6/9/2009   8:04:04 AM
  • 109
    It's outrageous that labels are required on food you buy at the grocery store but many times we can't know what is in our food when we go to restaurants. Or they give you the information in the smallest type possible in a big, thick binder so that it would be cumbersome for you to read through it. They need to pass a federal law - not leave it up to each city or state. The restaurants will survive, just as they are with the smoking bans. I'm tired of profits being put before people's health and safety. - 6/9/2009   7:49:48 AM
  • 108
    IMO, the squeaky wheel gets the grease! No way am I going to butter the hand of some politician to get these laws passed, though. I'll speak directly to the restaurants themselves by sending email, snail mail, and talking with restaurant managers to get the wheel rolling. I definitely think the law to require nutritional information is long past due. I would STILL patronize my favorite restaurants, and I'd make more informed choices. For high-calorie (or high-fat, high-sodium, etc.) meals, I'd choose to eat less and take home the rest. Why not? It is all in what you decide. And if the laws force the restaurants to modify their menus to more healthy selections, so much the better! - 6/9/2009   7:27:10 AM
  • 107
    I would really like to see EVERY COMMERCIAL EST. be required to advise when MSG has been added to food, ideally, reducing the amount of names in which msg can be hidden and some definition to no msg ADDED. What does that mean anyway? It's like saying its not our fault, its was in there before we got here. - 6/9/2009   5:48:53 AM
  • 106
    For me at least, this boils down to being able to be an educated consumer. I realize that many of the foods at restaurants are NOT "healthy". I realize many people go to these places to relax, splurge, etc. There are times when I choose to do the same. However, the difference for me is that I want to know the numbers. I want to be accountable for everything I put into my mouth. I realize fried green beans aren't good for me, but how "not good" are they? It makes a big difference in my caloric budget whether there are, for example, 300 or 600 calories in half the serving size. I'm going to eat it anyway, but I want to know what I am consuming.

    Likewise, I find it incredibly frustrating when I try to choose the healthier options only to find out the numbers later, when I have access to a computer and can dig up some info.

    I don't buy the idea that restaurants are afraid to put that info out there because they worry they will lose customers. Many chain restaurants offer nutritional info for (at least part of) their menu and are still doing quite well. In fact, I only visit places that do provide nutritional information, and know many people who do the same.

    I have to agree (with whoever posted previously stating that) the idea that restaurants cannot accurately give at least an approximation of nutritional data is bull, too.

    The bottom line is that all restaurants should be required to post their nutritional info online AND at the store location either via kiosk, seperate menu, incorporated into the menu, or posted in an accessible location on the wall, etc. That way anyone who wants to see the info, is able to do so.
    - Josie - 6/9/2009   3:14:30 AM
  • 105
    I hate it when I can see both sides of an argument.
    I get why restaurants don't want to place nutrition labels on the menus - cost of printing, paper, and loss of customers who will finally see what they are really eating and stop eating it. Then there is the overwhelming crisis in the US where people are just not eating right. You just have to surf around the web, pick up a paper and such and it smacks you right in the face. Especially with the rankings of fattest state or skinniest state (which drives me crazy). So now many people are vowing to get healthier. Which makes getting this information is very much needed.
    So seeing it from both views why not just print up the nutrition values in a separate "menu". Keep a few around each restaurant to let people see when they request them. This way, it's available for everyone who is choosing to get healthier and trying to make better choices. Those people that aren't ready or don't want to make better choices yet won't stop spending their money because they have a last minute revelation about how unhealthy something is.
    Granted we are talking about the government making the decision and usually its one way or the other not comprimse. Although, I have brought up a way the two could compromise - I still think it would be nice for everyone to 'see' what they are eating. - 6/9/2009   2:41:56 AM
  • MSKYKY13
    104
    i always think about what i can get as a best choice at th restraunts first - 6/9/2009   2:26:19 AM
  • TWATSON
    103
    We will have to give the politicians more money than the restaurant lobbyist.Politicians respond to whomever pays them the most dollars. - 6/9/2009   1:46:54 AM
  • 102
    I would make positive comments to the waitress if the info was shown on the menus or readily available. I would visit those type of restaurants more often. I would also recommend those restaurants to my friends. - 6/9/2009   12:48:03 AM
  • 101
    Many national chains are putting their nutritional facts on line to aid consumers in making choices. I wish more companies would do this. I always make a point to let companies know I appreciate them doing this and it is the reason I will come back to their restaurant.
    I see eating out as a chance to relax, talk to people I care about and be waited on. The food isn't as important, so it's not so hard for me to stay within my calorie range. It's about collecting happy memories.
    Food temptations abound. It is up to us to take charge of our own nutrition. - 6/9/2009   12:20:19 AM
  • 100
    As much as possible I evade eating out because most restos here do not post the nutritional content of their food so I do not know how much me and my family are really having in terms of calories etc..sigh..it's still healthier to eat at home even when it takes extra effort and time. plus, it can be a way to tighten the family bond and bod lol..my husband cooks sometimes and i love his cooking hehe - 6/8/2009   11:36:02 PM
  • 99
    SOme People prefer not to know, that way they think they are consuming less calories that what they actually do. Then people doesn't know why they are averweight. - 6/8/2009   11:15:21 PM
  • 98
    When my family and I go out I always ask before we are seated if they have the nutritional information on the foods they serve - if they so no - we walk out the door. I have heard from restuarants that their customers don't want to know the calories, because eating out is a splurge - I can see that being true from some, but others need and want to know the information. Almost everyone in my family suffers from food allergies and it is amazing what is hidden in the foods they serve. - 6/8/2009   10:47:20 PM
  • 97
    Now that I no longer eat animal products (vegan diet), I'm finding it more difficult to eat out at all. Some restaurants slather the pasta in butter before heaping on the sauce. And some marinara sauce has cheese in it. Even ordering a veggie pizza w/out cheese is difficult because some crusts have dairy. Eating healthy in restaurants is a contradiction in terms. Traveling poses a the biggest problem, as you can imagine. Even in hotels that offer breakfast, I have to bring my own packet of oatmeal because they usually only have the flavored variety which is chock full of sugar and other junk. So I don't see that restaurants exhibiting the nutritional info for their menus is going to be helpful. Most of us who know anything about serious nutrition want to cook at home. Oh, I didn't even mention the cleanliness & safety of the food in restaurants. Take a look at your county's health department's reports before you venture out. You may be surprised! - 6/8/2009   10:40:39 PM
  • 96
    I frequently choose restaurants based on whether or not I can find good nutrition information for their establishment. However, I am NOT in favor of laws being passed. These are private businesses and if we as the consumers make it in their best interest to provide nutrition information then they'll do it. The government has no place in this.

    I am willing to write to the companies I would like to patronize but don't because I can't find good information. - 6/8/2009   10:40:31 PM
  • 95
    I think restaurants should provide consumers with nutritional values of their food. We need the information. - 6/8/2009   10:34:57 PM
  • 94
    I have to confess that I don't rely very much on food labels. I think consumer education is probably a better solution.

    I learned to estimate portion sizes and calories in foods some years ago using the HMR system, but most of the time, I just use common sense. There are code words I look for in menus. As a rule, I don't order things that are breaded, fried or have a cream sauce. I usually prefer chicken or fish to red meat, and I don't add cheese to things. I get salad dressings on the side so I can control the amount I use. I order water, or limit myself to one glass of wine. I look for keywords in menus like "a la mode" (with ice cream) or "meuniere" (in butter sauce), and I avoid those.

    A lot of these are fairly simple things that anyone can do even without labels and nutritional information. The presence of labels does not ensure good choices. Everything you buy at the grocery store has a label, but people overeat those foods too.

    I wouldn't count on Congress given our country's ambivalence about federal regulations, and I don't think consumers will necessarily read labels if they are available. If they did, very few people would buy potato chips anymore. People need education so they can understand how to make good choices, the consequences of making poor ones, and to help motivate them to make good choices.

    P.S. I received a gift of "Wicked Whoopie Pies" for Christmas. A whole case full of them, individually wrapped, at 750 calories each. I'm still not sure what to do with them. - 6/8/2009   10:32:51 PM
  • 93
    Although for *some* restaurants the web site provides information, the vast majority do not, and, when I've asked at the store, they aren't helpful. I've stopped eating out except at a very few places--tough, because I HATE cooking, and used to be a 5-6 x/week restaurant patron (before I started getting responsible for my choices). My budget is happier, but I do miss the fun of the experience, just not enough to compromise my health (one example: lots and lots of places use msg or its derivatives; I know because if I get any, my heart races--so I can't eat at places where they don't know it's in their preparation stuffs). Poop. - 6/8/2009   10:21:25 PM
  • 92
    what I've seen at a few restaurants now is having a touchscreen console set up in the restaurant that displays all of the nutritional information, just like on their websites. I find it really helpful (and scary!) whenever I go out to eat. While I think it's a great idea to have restaurants post all the info, I think it would be just as helpful to get people more informed overall on what portion size is. Everything is okay in moderation. - 6/8/2009   10:03:39 PM
  • 91
    Did you know that the scrambled eggs in Drury hotels come from a package and are filled with unnatural stuff to make it taste like fresh eggs? Did you know that Bennigan's soups are also ready to heat and serve? Did you know that to be a cook in most restaurants nowadays means; 'heating, serving and arranging the food on plates'?
    So here we are demanding labeling while we are stuffing ourselves with artificial stuff and preservatives. In my opinion to reverse this 'unhealthy' trend takes more than just labeling food. It requires analyzing ALL the ingredients, and cooking and preserving methods. Instead of a 2 page menu you will get a book with all the information that will take you longer to read than waiting for you order.
    Just remember our fast food super size mentality created these restaurants. So it will take a change of this mentality to reverse this trend. This means it start with us, the customers. Just like SP created this informative helpful site, customers maybe need to create new restaurants from scratch, starting a new trend.
    If you are not treating the real problem you will still be fooling yourself into thinking that you are eating healthy. We have to root out weeds of our fast super size culture. Focusing on menu labeling is like just mowing the super size fat trend.
    - 6/8/2009   9:51:34 PM
  • 90
    I completely agree with "LEONALIONESS"!!!
    So many ppl out there are complaining about the "inconvenience" this will bring to all companies who serve food. And yes it will bring a little, especially to the small mom and pop stores. But realistically, it is way past due.

    There are many times, I will eat something in a restaurant and finish my plate as my mother taught me to only to later realize I ate 3 servings. I hate it! It would be nice to go out ANYWHERE with my family without having to look online and pre-plan my calories or force my family not to go to their favorite wing place because I'm not sure how to accomodate my needs.

    This would be much better for all us americans who have been taught the lifestyle of eating on the go. Also it might help our nation's percentages of obesity since so many of our foods have hidden ckals and hidden bad fats. Lastly in this economy, it will help create more jobs since they will need someone to calculate the health info.

    I'm ready - 6/8/2009   8:39:32 PM
  • 89
    I like asking for it every time - most restaurant workers will not be happy and force management into getting the info! - 6/8/2009   8:37:37 PM
  • 88
    Hope all is well - 6/8/2009   8:33:10 PM
  • 87
    I am all for food labeling. I also use the websites, try to make good personal choices and coach the wait staff that I don't want anything on my "steamed" veggies.

    I have only seen one restraurant really put themselves out there with every single menu item... healthy and not so healthy. That restruant is the Cheesecake Factory, the nutritional information is given in a seperate book (spiral bound) and has the calorie, fat, carb, fiber on every dish! Pretty incredible... and honestly pretty scary! I looked up one of my favorites, before starting spark people and it is over my daily calorie allotment by nearly 1,000 calories. I am for the information on menus or available in another format, but for the entire menu - not just your healthy options. - 6/8/2009   7:37:49 PM
  • 86
    My son had a craving for Panda Express after finishing exams today. He ordered Orange chicken with rice. Needless to say from one look at the plate it was not an item for me to eat.....white rice with deep fat fried chicken pieces...and sauce. I decided on the beef with broccoli and iced tea. I asked for nutritional information. The young lady just tee hee'd at me. Okay I guess I will just have to figure out myself. Well as I was eating I noticed you can go on their website and get the information. Single serving of broc and beef.....170 kcal and a whopping 570 mg of sodium.

    On another note....if you have the chance check out Doonesbury today. It is on this topic. - 6/8/2009   7:25:58 PM
  • 85
    Oh jeez, all the folks baaawing about the big bad "Nanny State" thing need to stop and think for a second. This legislation, as it's presented here, is not saying "you can't serve fatty, greasy, calorie laden foods, you bad restaurants you!" it is merely saying that, like packaged foods we buy in grocery stores, the restaurants must provide nutritional information to help consumers made choices.

    As others have said, you can't have personal responsibility if you don't have the information you need to make the choices! All this legislation is doing is making is so that consumers have INFORMATION. It's not banning anything or stepping on your rights.

    Did you all flap your hands in horror when the new legislation went into effect making it mandatory that packaged foods had to list the big 8 common allergens, too? How about the recent laws saying that raw, unprepared meat and seafood must list origins? Freak out over that? I didn't and I had to remake all the signs for our meat/seafood counters when that went into effect. It surely caused me more trouble than it did the average consumer.

    I also personally LOVE the new allergen labeling... as someone who doesn't eat dairy, eggs, fish or meat, having dairy, eggs, fish and shellfish ingredients clearly noted on the label helps me out a lot. I imagine our celiac, soy or gluten intolerant and direly allergic fellow humans love it too. Oh no, Nanny State! Look at how bad it is when the gov't tells corporations they have to be transparent with their labeling!

    I'm all for transparency in our food supply chain. That means giving consumers accurate, truthful information - be it about whether their food is a diet buster, contains GMOS, has rBGH, contains meat from cloned animals or any of the other random junk that is being inserted into our diets against our wishes. We need information if we are to make informed choices. If companies won't offer it up on their own, we have every right to force them to do so via legislation. Sheesh. - 6/8/2009   6:55:09 PM
  • 84
    I'm interested to note the number of comments that have mentioned that restaurants will often modify a dish to suit a customer's requirements or request (dressing on the side, steamed, not sauteed, no cheese or extra cheese, etc.) and they state that this is a reason why restaurants cannot provide exact nutrition information.

    I would argue, though, that most restaurants (whether or not they are large chains) actually know quite accurately how much of each ingredient goes into one entree or appetizer or dessert. Simple economics means that they *have* to, otherwise, they would not be able to budget for or set up the ordering for their restaurants! It's not like in my home, where my whim-du-jour dictates what gets served up! Restaurants price out the per-serving cost of each entree, including not just the food ingredients, but also the overhead (utility bills, staff wages, wear-and-tear, etc.) so that they can calculate how much to charge to assure a reasonable profit!

    In a mom-and-pop type of restaurant, those calculations are even MORE important, because they don't have the buying power of a chain, so they *have* to watch the bottom line. They may substitute green peppers instead of carrots if the price of the two inverts for a week.

    Think of your local mom-and-pop Chinese restaurants here - notice how their menus usually state "beef with mixed vegetables? That's not just a coincidence - it's because their ingredients vary based on seasonal fluctuations in price! However, the basic ingredients (the number of ounces of meat or fish or shrimp in a dish, the number of cups of fresh vegetables, etc.) is pretty much planned! And that's fine - the seasonal variations in vegetables will cause a *slight* difference in nutrition information, not a major one!

    My point? They *can* provide a reasonable approximation of the nutrition information in a dish as described on the menu. A customer who wishes to alter either the ingredients or preparation will be able to come up with his/her own approximation of how much difference in calories that variation would cause.

    Just my more-than-2-cents worth. I think we customers *should* be asking for the information we need. And yes, not just asking the waiter or manager, but also contacting the headquarters by phone, fax or email. The squeaky wheel DOES get the oil, after all, and I'd much rather *not* have to wait for any government, anywhere, to pass YET another law that has a hundred loopholes in it! :)

    Cheers,
    Maya
    - 6/8/2009   6:17:56 PM
  • 83
    I see a lot of people on here complaining that they can't make the healthy choice because the information is not available, especially from chains like Macaroni Grill and Olive Garden. Quite possibly the local chain does not have the information on-hand because it is not something they have been asked for. BUT that being said the information is out there. Both those chains took a lot of ribbing in here and I went to both of their websites and the information is there. As someone who travels a LOT for business I make a habit of checking the websites before I find a place to eat. It just takes a little bit of effort. And most of the companies do have the information out there - at least the major chains all do. And they have it out there without the legislation. People just have to take a little time to do their research and decide to take responsibility for themselves. The people have demanded nutritional values from the restaurants and they have responded with the information. The last thing we need to invite is more nanny state legislation. Get the government out of my life and leave it to me to decide what is best for me. - 6/8/2009   6:11:00 PM
  • 82
    I defiantly think restaurants should have the nutrition facts available for us. I know that some do, I believe if you go to the Olive Garden all you have to do is ask for one, but I could be wrong, sorry horrible memory! But I would really like it because I would be more apt to choose more carefully. And some things that sounds healthier are way worse than another item you may like more anyway... so yes I agree, lets get those facts out there!!! - 6/8/2009   5:24:42 PM
  • 81
    Personal responsibility is wanting to know what is being served at restaurants. The new proposed laws don't affect small restaurants or even small chains. And I would take it one step further and demand to know if there are genetically modified ingredients and meat from cloned animals in the foods that are being served. - 6/8/2009   5:04:06 PM
  • 80
    Sometimes, all you have to do is ASK.

    In Canada, we don't have the same food regulations as in the USA. Most restaurants here are not required to display nutrition information of their menu. I love the Cheesecake Cafe but they were one of the places where no information was available. I sent their head office an email asking them why. The guy sent me a reply and said they would be working on it. It was months ago and I thought my message had gone to the moon. But guess what? Just last week, the same guy who answered my initial email replied with a link to their current site where I could find not all, but the most popular cheesecakes nutrition info. You still can't find them in the restaurant but at least you can find them online.

    The bottom line is, if you don't ask they probably will never volunteer info that might scare their customers away. - 6/8/2009   5:00:12 PM

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