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Fitness Minutes: (20,400)
Posts: 2,704
6/5/12 5:45 P

I honestly can't believe anyone would expect a restaurant to "simply add up the nutritional info of the ingredients used in the recipe and divide by portion size". So much of cooking from scratch is intuitive and flexible- if you want the same ingredients, at the same ratio, at exactly the same size every time, go to McDonalds. That kind of cooking can only be done when all your ingredients come pre-packaged and pre-portioned. The amount of time it would take for a local, independent eatery to standardize all of their dishes that way would require gigantic expenditures in staffing and it would drive the cost of the food beyond the affordable range of most consumers, while also taking so long to prepare and portion that most consumers wouldn't want to wait for a meal.

MARG17 Posts: 285
6/5/12 8:38 A

Eat at home is best, restaurant food is not cooked the proper way, and laden with calories, only eat out once a month.

SCTK519 Posts: 2,086
6/4/12 11:43 P

I don't think it's about a dinner recreating the meal at home; I feel like a lot of people could do that to begin with. I just don't know if they really care. It's not a restaurant's job to regulate what I eat; that's My job. I think if a person is so worried about going out to eat, maybe a person should just eat at home and then you don't have to both searching the internet for nutritional information.

6/4/12 1:27 P

kwolford - I'm guessing you've never worked in a non chain resturant. The idea that you can "measure and add up" anything, much less for every plate that goes out is insane.

You are tossing out dishes as fast as your little arms can get them out. I'm amazed we don't get meals totally damn wrong more often. At a normal middle of the road non-chain, you will typically have about 1/2 the food prepped the day before, or by sous-chefs during the day, and half mixed fresh right when ordered. You'll grab what looks right. Chains send premesured, precut steaks, and mixes - it's consistant. Chefs grab the chicken breast as it's there, and cook it. they don't really care if it's 6 oz or 8 oz, just that it's "about right".

You have two choices - don't go out, or make reasonable guesses about what you are eating. WE all have a range. if you are "guessing' just make sure your food for the day is near the lower end of the range and you'll be fine if you underestimate something.

One other thing, chain or not, never trust the amount of oil (fats) listed on food menus. Busy cooks will toss oil onto food to keep it from drying out, while they wait for the rest of hte table's food to make. And it can be a lot of oil.

I always add one tablesppon oil to my counter any time I'm goign out to eat, just knowing how kitchens work.

ANARIE Posts: 13,205
6/4/12 12:43 P

And the real answer to "What's on the grilled vegetable platter?" at an independent restaurant is "Whatever vegetables were cheap this week and are at hand when chef plates your particular meal." The server probably won't know until the plate comes out, because it might change four times in a busy dinner service as they run out of one ingredient and bring in another.

Chain restaurants have cooks, who follow recipes (more or less.) Non-chain restaurants have chefs, who create dishes. It's kind of like comparing a journalist to a novelist. Journalists know roughly how many words they'll need to tell a particular type of story, they limit the vocabulary they use, and they're very aware of when they've introduced new terms. When they're halfway through, they can tell you the whole story because they know the ending. We all have an idea of the "ingredients" of a good newspaper article. Novelists work with what comes to them, as it comes to them, and they don't know how long a book will be, or sometimes even how it will end, until it's done. If conciseness and clarity are what's most important to you, you'll enjoy reading journalism and non-fiction more than you'll like novels. If consistency and knowing what ingredients are in a dish are what's most important to you, then you'll enjoy eating at a very good chain restaurant more than a small independent one. One is not necessarily better than the other; they're just different styles. One can tell you for sure what ingredients are in a dish before it's cooked, and the other can't.

NIRERIN Posts: 14,325
6/4/12 8:55 A

because restaurants and at home cooks have entirely different regulations governing them. in theory restaurants could use a calculator like spark, but they have no reason to. i cannot think of a single reason for a small restaurant to do it.

if you have food allergies, you should tell your server immediately upon being seated at the restaurant. food allergies are a different can of worms entirely.

as far as how to address the issue you make the best guesstimate you can. i do find it a little odd that some restaurants don't know the veg in their veg platter, but some people really don't know what zucchini is. odds are the place was just staffed by a few of those that day.
it could have also been the time you went to these places. if you're at a place in the middle of the lunch rush and going through the menu item by item asking what's in it, how much, how is it prepared, you're not going to be able to get as much out of a server who has ten other tables to tend while you're spending 20 minutes to order. i don't know if that was the case, but having been a special orderer who takes forever to do so for many, many years now, i can say that going at off times [earlier or a little later] means my server does have time to answer my questions a little more fully and baby-sit my special order through the kitchen. and everyone is happier. and preps, rough sizes of dishes, ingredient lists [but not quantities] are things your server should know.

one other thing i learned from tracking my favorite veg [mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, cauliflower] is that when i am mixing them up and using them in a curry or a stew, tracking each ingredient individually [1/8 cup carrots, 1/2 cup mushrooms, etc] versus tracking the volume of everything as a single ingredient like zucchini is off by less than ten cals per cup.

6/4/12 8:05 A

That's what I was thinking. If we can do it by measuring and calculating, then why can't the restaurant do it? Even if they don't want to try the calculation for liability reasons or whatever, any basic information they can give me could at least provide a guideline that I could use. One restaurant refused to tell me what vegetables went into what they called a "grilled vegetable platter". I thought that was absurd.

Nirerin, I wasn't looking for an answer to why they don't provide their nutritional info, I was looking for advice for how to address the lack of information issue. I understand the whole cost of analysis thing. I'm not saying that they should provide all of the intricate details of the nutritional information, but at the very least, they should know what ingredients go into it (what if I have allergies?). So, what would you suggest that I do?

KFWOHLFORD SparkPoints: (3,013)
Fitness Minutes: (2,581)
Posts: 729
5/30/12 3:26 P

There's no reason why providing nutritional info should cost money. Any chef (or person cooking at home) can simply add up the nutritional info of the ingredients used in the recipe and divide by portion size. There you go!

5/30/12 3:26 P

When I'm a few weeks into "dieting' (I have a bad habit of one a year, off two year, on a year off two years - super uber healthy, i know. ) I stop worrying so much about "exact" and do logical guesses.

So I am eating a chicken breast with an orange glaze at some local fresh market, I'll do one breast, concentrated orange juice (glazes are usually reductions of juices, so i just guess one cup of juice and move on).

But I always over estimate the oil they use. I've worked in kitchens, and know that even places where they tell you the "average" cals, if you are cooking two dishes, adn need to attend to one, you DUMP oil on the other dish to keep it saturated before it goes out. -- healthy, huh?" and they don't have to tell you, cause it's a difference in cooking, and not the average prepared for the testing.

If you don't make a habbit of going out, this method works well (over or under estimating one day a week is not going to effect your diet. doing it often, will).

If you do have to go out a lot, then you're right, it would be nice to have better options.

BLBST36 Posts: 351
5/30/12 3:19 P

For others that add foods - Honestly, I don't use any sparkmember added foods. I add my own - I would suggest this if you don't like they way an item is entered.

ANARIE Posts: 13,205
5/30/12 12:52 P

Yeah, for local places the testing is just prohibitively expensive, and NO restaurant is going to release their recipes! That's like BMW giving out the exact blueprints for every car or Levis having to share their patterns.

But you can do with the food exactly what you could do with a beloved but worn-out pair of discontinued Levis. If there's something you order frequently, one day get it to go, take it home, take it apart, and measure the pieces. I actually did that with Pho soup once, because I was getting it almost every Friday from a place my coworkers and I all really loved. And I almost always do it with sandwiches, because I never eat more than half, so it's easy to take the other half home to dissect.

I firmly believe that big chains should be required to make the info *easily* available (preferably right on the menu board or menu), but I believe just as strongly that small restaurants and companies should be exempt. McDonalds' and Burger King's whole business model is that you get exactly the same meal anywhere in the world. They sell consistency, so it's easy for them. Independent restaurants innovate and change, and a nutritional testing requirement would make it impossible for them ever to serve anything new. You just wouldn't have family or independent restaurants anymore.

TORIAMAE Posts: 1,080
5/30/12 12:26 P

I don't get it 100% exact, but use eyeballing and approximations to guesstimate the nutritional value of what I am eating.

True, I don't know exactly what is in the homemade bbq sauce at my local restaurant or their potato salad...but I can find some mass produced product with nutritional info available and record that as an estimate. It may be a bit off, but I don't eat out often enough for it to be hugely off or completely derail me!

SMERRIMAN7 Posts: 296
5/30/12 9:18 A

For adding to Sparkpeople, I do use weights. 1 oz, 28 grams, etc. I like #s I can measure and weigh specifically on the food scale. :)

Personally I've not had much trouble with restaurants and such. I guess it depends on where you go? When I eat out its mainly chain/nationwide restaurants and their info is generally available.

NIRERIN Posts: 14,325
5/30/12 8:00 A

umm. it costs $100 per menu item to test. and since you can't do one test it has to be an average of several, you're looking at a few hundred dollars per menu item. add to that the fact that the local healthy places use in season and more local ingredients where they can [which translates to greater variation in original product, which may mean more testing and reformulating the recipe to get a steady average to use], they generally don't have more than few stores [which means each store pays a higher portion of the testing] and they don't contract their producers to send to them the most identical product possible and that adds up to a huge cost for a tiny company. mcdonald's and burger king have how many thousands of stores they can spread that cost out over? and your local place probably has at least twenty items on the menu. if they only had to do three tests per item, that's 6,000 dollars. and if they change their menu seasonally, even just three times a year, you're looking at 18,000. which many small businesses just don't have. and if they have more menu items, that cost goes up. if they change out more than that, the cost goes up. most small local restaurants don't have that kind of cash lying around.
plus, if they gave you the nutrition info based on a calculator like sparkpeople's and you had it tested and it was off by more than the 20% they're allowed, you could sue them and/or create really bad press for them. why on earth would they hand out that info to people and put themselves in that situation?

Edited by: NIRERIN at: 5/30/2012 (08:07)
5/30/12 7:47 A

It's surprising to me to see that many restaurants are still not providing the nutritional information for their meals. I don't understand why McDonald's and Burger King are not afraid to post these details, yet the local "healthy" places don't take the time to figure this out, and make up excuses as to why it's not available. I have asked for the measurements of the ingredients so that I could figure it out myself, but most places don't like to give out that information because they're afraid you will make it on your own at home and stop coming to their restaurant.

So, what do you do when you're trying to figure out what you're eating (at the very least, the calorie count), and when you search for similar foods, all it says is "one serving", not the size of the serving?

On that note...
I'd like to suggest that if you add a food to SparkPeople that is not listed, please put a description of what "one serving" means in the food title. Example: "Cracker, Reduced Fat, Triscuit Brand (7 crackers = 30g = 1 serving)"

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