April 22, 2008 at 8:25 am
I was watching The Today Show this weekend and was happy to learn that New York is upholding the regulation to require calories on menu boards of chain restaurants. Go, New York!
Whenever I go out to eat I feel like I’m on the Price and Right trying to estimate the price of a new washer and dryer without overbidding. Which item has the lowest calories? Is it the chicken salad, or will that come buried in croutons and smothered in fatty dressing? Maybe it’s the naked burrito, but exactly how much cheese and sour cream are they going to pile on top of that thing? There’s really no way to know.
I usually look up the nutritional information on the Internet afterwards and have rarely ever been happy with the results. Some restaurants don’t even post that, which makes me wonder what they’re hiding Other than that, the only thing you could do is text message the diet.com service which sends you nutritional information on your cell phone, but that could get expensive depending on your calling plan.
The New York State Restaurant Association is against the new measure, and I’m not really sure why. Their representative on the show was going on about how it’s so complicated and we shouldn’t go around complicating the lives of New Yorkers. I don’t know what he’s talking about. They’re not posting the nutritional information as the answer to a quadratic equation customers have to solve. If the board says the burger has 800 calories, that sounds pretty straight forward to me.
The other argument the guest made was that restaurants should be able to choose how they provide the information. In theory that would be nice, but you know restaurants would just do this in the cheapest way for them and not the most convenient way for the customer. They’d probably stuff the information in a pamphlet that is a copy of a copy of a copy and display it in the back hallway by the janitor’s closet. I know Ruby Tuesday experimented with posting calorie information on their menus for several months, but they eventually nixed the idea claiming they had to reprint their menus every time they added an item or modified the ingredients of an existing item. I suspect the NYSRA is really against the regulation because they don’t want to have to spend money updating their menus.
Also according to the article, Ruby Tuesday said the posting of nutritional information “had not caused any significant changes in ordering habits.” It will be interesting to see what happens in New York. The change is good for people like me who watch what they eat, but I probably wasn’t going to order the deep-fried double-bacon cheeseburger anyway. If you’re the type of person who is going to order something you obviously know is bad for you, I don’t know if seeing the calorie information will dissuade you or not. Everyone knows smoking will kill you, but millions of people do it anyway. I would guess the change will allow health-conscious people to make better choices and the people who don’t care will keep eating what they want to anyway. Maybe the people who will be most effective are the in-betweens, the people who’d like to eat healthier but don’t go out of their ways to do so. If you make it easier for them, maybe they’ll make better choices. Either way, I’m glad the information is out there and it will be interesting to see what happens.
Earlier: Changes in my American life
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