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Menu Calorie Counts

Saturday, October 12, 2013


For a number of years quite a few American jurisdictions have required major restaurant chains to post calorie counts and other nutritional info on their menus. The idea being that people will make healthier selections if they know what they're getting. Now my province of Ontario is to follow suit with new legislation.

It's not clear exactly why. Follow-up US studies indicate that for the most part and even when they know the calorie consequences people will still choose what they want rather than what they need.

However, that's more the case for mass market chains (McDonalds) than for upwardly mobile chains (Starbucks).

Hmmmm. Last weekend when I stopped for a plain skim milk latte and an oat bar after a trip to an art gallery (yup, I know this sounds like a total cliché . . . ) I was stunned to realize after the fact (calories not yet posted at Starbucks here) that my healthy looking and unadorned oat bar clocked in at 370 calories. The latte was 130. Total 500 calories for a "snack": waaaay too much. Had I known, I would not have ordered that oat bar for sure. (Of course, I could have used my iPhone to check it out anyhow on the Starbucks website, but I didn't).

For those of you already put on notice of calorie counts . . . has the info in fact influenced your choices?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    While restaurant nutritional information may or may not affect my choice while at the restaurant, the knowledge is used to track the food to help determine what I will eat the rest of the day, I plan most of my meals on Friday night, use the menus to determine my grocery list and add in restaurant meals that I'd like to have, such as Qdoba, Subway or Jimmy John's. I always get the same items there, so I can pre-track them. I think the key is to find something low calorie that you actually could look forward to.
    1652 days ago
    Oh yes, I check the posted nutritional information. I THINK I know what I'm doing, but sometimes I get a surprise.
    1653 days ago
  • KANOE10
    I have looked at calories when they are posted at restaurants. I do use them.

    I am not sure most people look at them. Subway posts them. There is a restaurant chain in Seattle that posts their calories. One salad was over 1000 calories,
    1653 days ago
  • _LINDA
    I eat out so rarely that this isn't a real issue for me. But I would sure love to be able to look it up at the restaurant itself then online. US profiles usually differ from Canadian ones.
    Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    1653 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    An old adage popped into my mind regarding your question -- "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make the horse drink." It's an individual decision. Sure is nice to have the information available for making a decision.
    1653 days ago
    In Australia, many of the chains you mentioned post caloric content (in kilajoules, or however that is spelled).

    And yes, I've looked at the stunning numbers (literally stunned!) and made another choice.

    I find it sad that the small cone of uncertain creamy frozen treat is half the calories of a slice of banana bread. I mean, banana bread at least has fruit and grain in it. That frozen treat may not even contain dairy. Which is the healthier option?

    (The nonfat latte was usually my final choice.)
    1654 days ago
    I do my best not to get into one of these situations to begin with, and if I do I try to stick with bare bones food that can't be messed with too badly. Love chinese buffets as I skip right by all the prepared stuff and go to the hibachi grill and have them chop-chop, stir fry my fresh veggies and meat...yum!

    1654 days ago
    Yes, it does. I have juvenile diabetes and I need to take insulin to metabolize carbohydrates so I need to know CHO counts for everything or risk complications or insulin reactions. The nutritional information legislation was pushed through by the American Diabetes Association. For those that use it, it's a lifesaver or a big help; for those that don't, it's there for when they're ready.

    One thing, without the cooks back in the kitchen weighing and measuring, those menu figures are only an estimate and almost certainly on the low side. I have professional cooks in the family and the industry tends to go nuts on the oil and the salt.

    emoticon blog!
    1654 days ago
    Like you, I would have been totally blind-sided to find that something as innocuous-sounding as "oat bar" could be so laden with calories! Don't marketers usually try to sex-up their decadent choices? For nearly 400 calories I expect a name such as "Caramel-Oatmeal Gooey Delight of Goodness" or some such! emoticon
    1654 days ago
  • NANCY-
    Stopped in an Au Bon Pain. They had the calories listed which made me opt for the apple instead of the muffin.
    I say put the calories out there, yes it is our choice, but at least it will be an informed choice.
    (wishes all food would have a calorie count listed as I was about to put it into my mouth. )
    1654 days ago
    Knowing the calorie count definitely affects my choices. We eat out rarely, but I am learning to look up nutritional information before we go to try to make the best choices. Too often, though, I am blindsided by calorie count after the fact, just as you were. Live and learn!
    1654 days ago
  • DALID414
    Yes it does! Coco' Restaurant & Bakery started posting the calories even on their pies! I love their Harvest pie, but at 740 calories a slice I'm glad I split a slice in half before even knowing the calorie count. emoticon
    1654 days ago
    It sure has! i always look anymore before I go eat out.
    1654 days ago
    Absolutely it affects my choices! I would be digging to find the information about ingredients and estimating even if they did not provide the labels. But this makes it SO much easier if I MUST eat at one of these places!

    Of course, I usually look it up online before I even GO to a restaurant, and KNOW what I'm going to order.

    I really don't care if it influences other people's choices, I know it makes my own life easier. However, I'm not sure I'm crazy about MANDATING the information be on the printed menus.
    1654 days ago
    Yes, yesterday when I was at Carls Jr with my family I chose the lesser charbroiled bbq chicken sandwich instead of the Cod sandwich because it clocked in at almost 50 calories less. It was probably the tartar sauce, which I could have done without but then what's a fish sandwich without it? The chicken was more filling anyway. When I realized how much just the chicken sandwich was, I stayed with just that instead of adding anything else to my meal. Much more manageable and helps keep you within range. Knowing the calories before hand is usually how I normally go. If I am unsure of the calories, i tend to stay away from that food choice.
    1654 days ago
    I agree that, for many, the calorie count makes no difference. Though, in all honesty, with the current state of functional illiteracy, I often wonder if it doesn't matter, or if they can't read/understand the information. I DO use the info, as part of my decision.
    1654 days ago
  • MJRVIC2000
    Have healthy and safe holiday! God Bless YOU! Vic.
    1654 days ago
    With manufactured food, the stuff made in factories, they can be precise with calorie counts. In restaurants, not so much, because it's made by hand. My kids all worked in kitchens for some years, and I know how it works: add oil to a pan first, and it's whatever amount the "dump" is. You cannot measure that, but oil is 120 calories per tablespoon, so it doesn't take much to jack up the count. With restaurants, it's just as estimate. This is why I choose to do my own cooking and rarely eat out. I guess it's just the control freak in me.
    1654 days ago
    Good question. I can see pros and cons. We've got nutrition info on food we buy at the store and many people still don't pay attention. It will make it easier for those who care and those that don't will simply ignore it I think.
    1654 days ago
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