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Now we’ll know how many calories are in a New York cheesecake

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.

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58 Comments

Kate • April 22, 2008 at 8:58 am

Hurray, I am definitely in favor of this. I hope more and more places adopt a similar regulation. I really like that some places voluntarily do it (or at least bother to point out the healthier options like Subway does). I know Au Bon Pain has a computer in most of its locations where you can look things up. I get that restaurants try to argue it’s complicated, or that you can’t guarantee that the portion size will be exactly the same as the portion measured. But even a ballpark estimate is better than nothing. I think they are just worried people will see the nutritionals and either order less food (like split a 1000 calorie sandwich with someone) or say forget it altogether! Realistically, some people will read the information and disregard it, but many of us truly want to make decisions based on it.

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servetus • April 22, 2008 at 9:11 am

I don’t care what restaurants do (or don’t do); however, it strikes me that this kind of information will simply add to the public stigmatization of fat people. You know, people go into restaurants for all different reasons and it is impossible to say directly that people who order low calorie items are health-conscious and people who order high-calorie items are not. Sometimes people who would normally order a burger just want a salad. Sometimes people who diet like crazy at home go out and treat themselves. Who cares, people, it is JUST FOOD. Let’s not demonize food, or the people who eat it, any more than we already have.

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psychsarah • April 22, 2008 at 9:44 am

I think this is a great idea. I will go to restaurant websites before attending to try to make a good choice (in terms of fat, calories, sodium) before looking at the menu. That way I get something I enjoy, but I can fit it into the rest of my day. I have even contacted restaurants who don’t post this info to encourage them to do so. I agree with PQ-those who want to use the info will, those who don’t, won’t. Why not provide the info to those who want it?

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Danielle • April 22, 2008 at 10:02 am

It can be very expensive to have a menu analyzed for nutritional information, and that’s probably why most restaurants do not do it.

Plus, most restaurants change their menus all the time.

While it is really nice to go to a chain restaurant and have all the info there for me so I don’t have to think too much about it (I’m on WW and dong the points system) I don’t really think it’s that hard to make sensible, healthy choices without it, either. People need to take a little more responsibility for their own health.

With that being said, I have waited tables for years and years, and you would be surprised at how many people do NOT know how to make a healthy choice. They’ll order somethng, and then they’ll say soemthing like “Is that ok to order if I am watching my diet?”

UMM…it’s covered in ranch dressing and has fried things in it…what do you think? Just because it’s a salad, doesn’t make it healthy.

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creatingadiva • April 22, 2008 at 10:05 am

OH I would definitely be all for restaurants publishing their nutrition stats! It does help out those that eat healthy and on the fence people…I specifically try and look up nutrition info before I go out to eat and try so hard to not go to places that don’t publish their stats..what else are they hiding?

OH and the diet test message…COOL! Who knew?

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deanna • April 22, 2008 at 10:16 am

I am from NY and I think this is great – because there are days that I want that burger, and once I see that it’s 800 calories, I know I’ll step away. Also, I always wondered about the salads -I would have to imagine that some are probably way higher (calorie-wise than the burger! I do understand both points but what kills me is a place like Applebees, they have no problem putting the weight watcher information on their menus (because they get paid to do so) but try to get the nutritional info on any other item and it can’t be done. I’ve looked on the website, actually called the company (because i was PISSED off) and asked in the restaurant – they say they don’t have it because the menu varies at each restaurant. What kills me is that other chains – Friday’s, Chili’s etc. can accomplish that task. What are they hiding? I know the food at these places is marginally good at best but with 2 kids, you can’t really dine at Le Cirque!

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nolafwug • April 22, 2008 at 10:40 am

I love this idea. I’d like to be able to access full nutritional data and not just calorie counts. That way you can protect yourself from things like trans fat. If I can plug recipe ingredients into a website like fitday.com, establish a serving size and do the division then surely restaurant owners can do so as well. If they have to hire a specialist to be sure they get accurate numbers that’s just the cost of doing business – they can raise their prices slightly. I for one am more than happy to pay a few cents more in the name of full disclosure. Having said that though, I’m still going to go to my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants and wing it from time to time.

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Happy • April 22, 2008 at 10:40 am

This is great news – I hope more places begin doing this.

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jaime • April 22, 2008 at 10:48 am

When they were last talking about this, I accidentally dvr-ed a 60 Minutes segment about it, and there was some guy on there saying “No one’s going to go online and look up calorie counts for restaurant foods!”

Dude, I do that every day!

Anyway, did you know that you can still get the “Smart Eating” menu at Ruby Tuesday with their lighter entrees and the nutritional info? At least, around here you can. When I go in I just ask the waitress for the lite menu before we get seated.

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G.G. • April 22, 2008 at 10:55 am

I kind of think the restaurant industry’s reluctance to release nutritional information to people when they are actually at the restaurant has its roots in the belief that it will cause people to order less food. It might not stop a person from ordering the bacon cheeseburger with everything on it, but it might keep them from buying the chicken wings to kick off the meal, or the slice of Death by Chocolate to finish it. It may not affect how the majority of customers eat, but it will affect the choices of some–and a restaurant isn’t going to want to risk losing ANY business, even if it’s a small percentage. People do need to be responsible for their own health, but isn’t part of that being fully informed about what the choices are? I honestly believe there are a lot of people who wouldn’t think that a serving of tuna salad could be worse for you, calorie-wise, that a cheeseburger.

I think it’s an issue of corporate responsibility, too. Seriously, how expensive could it be? Any person can plug the base ingredients of a recipe into a program and get a ballpark nutritional snapshot of what the food consists of, if they know what those ingredients are, and the food most of these companies offer customers has been engineered and is reproduced at each location via standardized company-wide recipes. I’m sure they spend a ton of money on product development and figuring out all the right ingredients to add to the food for maximum customer appeal, so how much harder would it be for them to analyze for nutrition?

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Kris • April 22, 2008 at 10:56 am

I’m hoping it convinces some restaurants to start using healthier ingredients – once they REALLY see how many calories and fat are in their food. It probably won’t, but I can dream.

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David Crowell • April 22, 2008 at 11:15 am

I have to take issue with this. Although I am losing weight, and eat out occasionally, it’s not difficult to figure out what is healthy, and what’s not.

I don’t like the idea of government interference with business. If enough people want to know calories, the businesses will do it of their own accord.

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MizFit • April 22, 2008 at 11:17 am

we need to get YOU on the today show.

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Su • April 22, 2008 at 11:37 am

Thing is, New Yorkers don’t generally eat in chains. (Just like we don’t shop at malls.)

It’s kind of a who cares thing. Tell the tourists who are noticeably fatter than we are, don’t tell them– we don’t care.

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Quix • April 22, 2008 at 11:45 am

Seriously, I am all for this as a dedicated calorie counter. :) I’m not in denial that a burger and fries is not the best choice, but sometimes you have to have what you’re craving and away I go to a burger joint. I just want to know what I’m putting in my body so I can adjust the rest of my day. Seeing the calorie count turns me off some dishes, but rarely restaurants as a whole. What scares me off is not being able to find the information anywhere so I can make an informed decision. In the example of a burger and fries, I can grab a 700 calorie version of it at top notch (think Texas equivalent of In N Out), but just the BURGER at chilis is about 800 calories.

I’m also willing to compromise here – I don’t have to sit down and look at my menu and see calorie counts (nice, but not needed). I do my research beforehand and as long as I can actually find the calorie count *somewhere* online I’m happy. It just infuriates me that places like Fuddruckers, TGIFridays, and Red Robin won’t give out the information, but it’s not always my choice where to go for lunch ;).

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Laura • April 22, 2008 at 12:22 pm

I live in NYC and am SO excited they’re doing this (though I wish it would extend to all restaurants and not just chains). I love to cook, and I always do what nola suggested: go to dailyplate.com, put my recipe in, and divide by the servings. REALLY not hard at all, and I don’t see why restaurants can’t do that.

I understand that it might be complicated to display the calorie info on menus and such, so I would love to see something where every restaurant has to post full nutritional information on their website, or, if they don’t have a website, have lists in the store (and get fined if they can’t find one when a customer asks, like happened to me at an airport Burger King the other day). Yes, it’s kind of a pain to go check it on a website, but at least it’s out there somewhere (I’m looking at you, Cheesecake Factory who will NOT provide any info whatsoever). And with basically everyone today having a Blackberry/other PDA anyway, I think it’d be pretty accessible even if people were at the restaurant and wanted to know.

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Laura • April 22, 2008 at 12:26 pm

And Quix, I totally agree with you that there are SO many different versions of foods that you never know what you’re eating. Sauces and cooking preparations vary widely (e.g. sometimes if you get the “grilled” chicken it comes covered in oil, unless you know to ask for it grilled dry), so seeing the food on my plate doesn’t really tell me what’s in it.

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deanna • April 22, 2008 at 1:24 pm

Do you live in NYC? Because plenty of NYC business “people” whether they live or work there are at Friday’s, ESPN Zone, Heartland Brewey, Hard Rock, Houstans etc… for lunch and dinner. Midtown has exploded with Chain restaurants, and this I believe will impact all restuarants – the Victors, Peter Lugers and Carmines of the world have to adhere to these guidelines as well! This will NOT complicate the lives of New Yorkers…it will complicate and impact the bottom line of restaurants.

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Nina • April 22, 2008 at 1:31 pm

Ok, I am going to dissent here. I am totally against this, and no I am not a restaurant owner/worker/investor, just a plain Jane citizen who has struggled with my weight my whole life. Having to pay for nutritional analyis for every dish at labs, and then post the info, and then never change the recipe because then you will have to do it all over again, is absolutely ridiculous. Going out to a restaurant will become boring and/or prohibitively expensive. Take responsibility for what you put in your own mouth. Plain grilled/steamed fish is obviously a better choice than a pan-fried Kobe beef hamburger. If you want the burger, have it; you want the fish? Have it instead. But please, let’s all take responsibility for our own choices, because every choice has a consequence. Foisting that off on a business person just trying to make a living is pushing the responsibility in the wrong direction. I would rather see the money required to regulate and inspect this nonsensical plan be put to nutritional education in the schools and community programs. And if you really don’t want to consume so many calories and/or sodium, then please just know that you have to make your own food most of the time. Restaurant meals should be delicious and special; who the heck wants to pay $20-$30 for a healthy-but-not-so-great-tasting entree you could make yourself in your own kitchen?

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Red • April 22, 2008 at 1:33 pm

I really like that the amount of calories be presented in a standard format, just like on the back of a soda or candy bar.

Maybe there’s a more “optimal” way of presenting that information, but it’s more useful to ME if it’s the same at every restaurant.

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Andrew is getting fit • April 22, 2008 at 2:12 pm

I wish this applied to every restaurant in the world!

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Cindy • April 22, 2008 at 2:50 pm

“Government is best that governs least.” Or something to that effect. In other words, keep the state of New York out of it. I am all for making healthy choices at restaurants (and I do it with great regularity). Calories are only part of the equation, of course. People need to make their own choices…and make their own noise, if they want restaurants to post this kind of information. Regulating it isn’t the answer. We have enough rules and regulations as it is, don’t you think?! I work with toddlers and spend my days teaching “self-regulation” skills to two and three year olds. This country could learn a lot from those toddlers!

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Laura Brandon • April 22, 2008 at 3:12 pm

i wish they’d do this everywhere. it would make life so much easier.

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Tiffany • April 22, 2008 at 3:13 pm

One of the popular places in my former college town printed out on your receipt the nutritional information for whatever you ordered. Granted, after you ordered, but still it helped with portioning it out. I would think this could be a really good system at most quick service and fast food restaurants.

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nolafwug • April 22, 2008 at 3:18 pm

It would be nice if we could trust business owners to value our lives and our health above their bottom lines. But I remember learning in history class that US citizens had to fight for things like child labor laws and the 40-hour work week. They weren’t just handed to us by benevolent CEOs. Not to get overly political and for sure not listing nutrition info isn’t on par with forcing a 10-year old to work in a coal mine but just saying – I have no trust in business owners to put my needs first. Or the government for that matter.

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Lori W. • April 22, 2008 at 3:24 pm

When I did WW before this time, I actually called Chili’s and got their head nutritionist. SHE was on WW too and basically our phone conversation was one big long commiseration.

I remember she had calculated the endless chip bowl and queso at 64 points (for one trip of the endless bowl). She also said to avoid things that were marinated because that meant oil. She said that there’s a lot of hidden calories in the foods and that the language could make it sound healthier than it appears.

I can’t think of anything really worth eating at Chili’s to make it a “destination” place to dine. I would only eat there if it was the only place nearby or someone absolutely insisted. But that said, they had a commercial for it the other night and I was so so so sad because I would be there eating those new items.

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anonymous boxer • April 22, 2008 at 3:51 pm

When I do go out to eat, I’ve usually allowed myself some extra calories and don’t think about the calories…. but I still want the option to look.

I think I would actually pick a place to eat that did tell me what I was eating, so I’m super happy with New York.

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jae • April 22, 2008 at 4:09 pm

I think the nutritional facts printed on menus will need to be thought of a rough estimate, not to be taken as set in stone.

It depends on who’s cooking and everyone has a different cooking style. Are the chef’s going to be using mesuring utensels? Your “eyeing” a tablespoon full of oil will be different from my “eyeing”. Is that only really one cup of cheese on that French Onion soup? Or a handfull, and who’s handfull?

I got a sub sandwich this weekend and if you look up the calories on their website you will get the calories for “2 tbsp” of mayo. Well, I can tell you that I certainly got way more than 2 tbsp, it was more like 1/2 a cup.

Maybe the resturants need to just cut down on the portions. I think it’s crazy that my family of three can just about eat from one entre, or that the plates are so gianormous that they can’t even fit two on the table!

But I think you said it best when you said that if someone is the type to order the “bad choice” then the calories on the side of the menu will probably not discourage them anyway.

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Emily • April 22, 2008 at 5:02 pm

I agree. I would love having easy access to nutritional info when I go out, but I don’t believe it should be mandated.

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another new yorker • April 22, 2008 at 5:38 pm

haha, yeah but i definitely know new yorkers who eat at pinkberry and tasti.

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K • April 22, 2008 at 6:47 pm

I’m kind of conflicted on this.

On the one hand, if it causes menus to change less because of the trouble of calculating the nutritional info, that’s bad.

But on the other… it’s only menu boards that have to have this information (not printed menus etc). And it could even work as a marketing tool. Starbucks in the UK point up certain choices as “healthier”, and although they appear to think that under 200 calories = healthy, it seems like a step in vaguely the right direction.

I suppose it depends how much you think the clientele care. Personally, I’d rather know what I was eating, down to the ingredients. My husband is allergic to nuts, so half the time we have to ask about the ingredients of food we order anyway, so perhaps it seems like more of a big deal to me?

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Becca • April 22, 2008 at 6:55 pm

And the restaurant that wins my award for “ease of obtaining nutritional information” and “tastiness of healthy options”…..Jimmy John’s. I know – sub sandwiches usually mean processed meat on a slab of carb-o-rama.

But the other day, I took a bike ride with some friends on our local happy fun and fitness trail. We made it from Carmel to Nora (and if you don’t live in Indianapolis – I shall translate – about 5 miles). Which is not too shabby for a pudge like me. So we needed a treat before turning around and heading back another 5 miles to the car. We picked Jimmy John’s, where I learned they offer lettuce wrap sandwiches. I choose the veggie one with sprouts, tomato, provolone, avocado and cucumber. I know… healthy in a healthy wrapping. But it was stunningly delicious and under 500 calories for the whole thing (which was on the large-ish size). I definately recommend this since I’m actually contemplating another bike ride just to get another one.

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starbird • April 22, 2008 at 7:42 pm

I am totally with the people who oppose government mandates.

To nolafwug, who says: “I have no trust in business owners to put my needs first. Or the government for that matter.” I have to ask, who do you trust?

I also agree with Danielle’s reasoning about why restaurants don’t want to do this. Another reason could be that restaurant owners are probably afraid that a Michael Moore-type trying to make a name for himself will have 10 burgers sold at one store and billed as having 800 calories analyzed. He’ll find that 9 have 750 calories and the 10th has 850 calories. We’d hear all about the nasty business owner ‘lying’ to customers and little or nothing about the lower calorie count of the other burgers.

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victoria • April 22, 2008 at 9:12 pm

I respectfully beg to differ on the question whether nutritional information will change people’s eating habits. Once you know how bad something is for you, you’re a lot less likely to continue doing it (the Surgeon General’s campaign to reduce smoking in this country was actualy very effective at reducing smoking over time. In my mother’s day, everyone she knew smoked. Today, I know only one person who does. That’s huge difference and it’s all because the relevant information is available today.) Nutrtional information changed my behavior. I learned that The Cheesecake Factory ADDS sugar and butter to items that absolutely do not call for those ingredients (for example, their pasta & vegetable dishes identify neither sugar nor butter as ingredients on the menu, but are seasoned with both items). After learning they were putting sugar and butter in what appeared to be a vegan pasta primavera, I no longer eat at that restaurant, even though it’s really convenient to my workplace.

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Tricia • April 22, 2008 at 9:15 pm

nina- great response. i am in 100% agreement with you. a gal after my own heart.

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Sara L • April 22, 2008 at 9:50 pm

Hi PQ! Just writing to say congrats on the book. I read it over the last few days and I really enjoyed it. I’m recommending it to everyone I know!

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Merry • April 22, 2008 at 10:39 pm

You know, people go into restaurants for all different reasons

Um… I’m not sure why you say this. Could you provide some examples? From my perspective, people who go into a restaurant will have some expectation of eating food.

Also, why is specifying the number of calories in a cheeseburger or cheesecake demonizing the food? Could you go into detail?

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merrem • April 22, 2008 at 10:45 pm

I have to say that seeing a calorie count would probably deter me from eating something very high calorie or high fat some of the time.

There are those times, however, when haagen daz toffee ice cream is calling and I cannot resist.

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Christine in AZ • April 22, 2008 at 11:21 pm

Got your book today and I LOVE IT!!!!

I am just so stinking proud of you!! Congratulations!!!!

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Denise • April 22, 2008 at 11:33 pm

WHOOOOOOOO!!!!! I just got my book in the mail today. Can’t wait till I can start reading it. I want to mail it to you so that I can get it autographed, I will even send $$ to pay for shipping back just let me know how we can do this. If not possible then I’ll buy another signed copy.

Take care

Denise

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Valerie • April 22, 2008 at 11:40 pm

It can be very expensive to have a menu analyzed for nutritional information, and that’s probably why most restaurants do not do it.

I think nutritional analysis used to be more expensive than it is. There are now any number of software programs — some free online — linked to databases with the nutritional data of “basic” foods {eg, 1 ounce of boneless, skinless chicken breast, 1 [unit] flour, 1 cup of hulled millet, etc.). You type in your ingredients and amounts, then specify the expected number of servings and it spits out the combined nutritional data for one serving.

Restaurants might want to do something a bit more elaborate, but much of the basic lab-based data collection has been done.

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Dreamer • April 23, 2008 at 12:25 am

I agree with you re. demonizing food, servetus, and I’m wondering if you, like me, follow an Intuitive Eating approach? (i.e., rejecting the diet mentality and the notion that some foods are “good” and others are “bad,” thus eating what you’re hungry for when you’re hungry for it and stopping when you’re satisfied, and in the end finding that you eat a lot less than you used to while feeling a lot less deprived and being a lot less likely to binge. My mantra — or one of my mantras — is, “I can have it if I really want it, but do I really feel like it?”)

So yes, I could be found eating a burger and fries in a restaurant, if that was what I was really craving, but not very often, because I usually feel like something healthier. If I ask myself what I really feel like, sometimes it’ll be a burger, sometimes a salad, and sometimes a piece of grilled fish, but I know that if I make my decision solely on the basis of calorie count, I probably won’t feel satisfied, and I’ll be “on the prowl” for something else after I leave the restaurant. In that case, may as well have had the “bad” choice and ended it there! Of course, if I can’t decide between two items, and one has a lower calorie count, I’ll probably go for that, because, why not?

Before I became an Intuitive Eater, I’d reached the point where I knew I could never possibly go on another diet (I’d yo-yo’d for years), and seeing calorie counts on a menu would have been a very depressing and anxiety-inducing experience. Being made aware of what I “should” be eating would just make me want to eat more of what I “shouldn’t” be eating. So I was doing a lot of “non-hungry” eating (which I figured out was the main source of my weight problem, rather than “calorie creep” as such).

I do find, though, that it’s hard to convince other people of the effectiveness of Intuitive Eating. They usually won’t believe you, even if you lose weight as a result of it, as I’ve done (20 to 30 pounds — not sure exactly, since I hardly ever weigh myself!) It really is a different paradigm.

But weight loss is a very personal and individual thing, and every individual has to take the path that works best for them. Maybe some people really would eat burgers and fries all the time if they allowed themselves to eat whatever they felt like, without noting the calorie count. Different stokes for different folks.

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Sandy • April 23, 2008 at 5:11 am

Hmm. I think that nutritional information would be a fantastic idea, as it might give a ‘wake up call’ to the general public when eating out. Everyone on this site is interested in weight loss in some shape or form (ha ha) so be definition all the commentators will be aware of what foods are likely to have how many calories something contains (well, ballpark figures anyway- you can never account for the quirks of the chef). BUT (as a newcomer to this site) I seem to recall in one of PQ’s archive posts her saying that in the past, whilst she knew that endless returns to the self-serve ice cream machine were probably not good for her, she had no idea at all that pizza was so heinously calorific (I paraphrase!). In the UK where I live, there is currently a panapoly of diet shows where this crazy woman (Gillian Mckeith- look her up!)does a whole load of things like show people what’s really inside hotdogs and burgers (things like ears and connective tissue and gristle). She also takes three well loved dishes to a public place and asks the public to say which one they think has the lowest calories…and they are almost always completely wrong.

So I think I’m trying to say…it’s easy for ‘us’ (ie the commenters) on this site, with our knowledge, to make ‘informed’ choices, but for the majority I think calorie information might help some people begin to move a little in the right direction. Or even just open their eyes!

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Paddy • April 23, 2008 at 5:26 am

Gotta say I am part of the “don’t madate” brigade.

I can see that it would be useful and helpful and perhaps lead to better choices, but isn’t it up to us to be better informed and educated about nutrition and about what constitutes a healthy choice?

I completely agree with the point made about education in schools on nutrition (we should be taught how to cook and eat well)and also the point about smaller portions. I know I would prefer to eat a smaller dish than receive a mountainous plate of food and watch it either go to waste, or waist!!!

Once we let government start to enforce in this area, then where does it stop ? How long til individual family run restaurants have to supply information by law, or just so they can compete with the chains? Or removing menu items which exceed a certain calorie / fat content ?

We should be responsible for what we choose to put in our mouths – we can’t blame authorities. And we can choose where we eat and whether we make it ourselves (mindful of the discussion last week regarding food prices!)

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diamondwife • April 23, 2008 at 7:58 am

Against, against, against. Every government program and/or mandate COSTS money. Since the government does not produce anything, thus does not generate income where does that money come from? I know, taxpayers. This nation was founded because some folks from other countries wanted more choices. Now every time we turn around the government wants to take away another aspect of individual choice. This is a capitalistic society, and good thing too. The business owners are the ones who pay a big chunk of taxes (they pay their own income taxes as well as business taxes and the employer portion of taxes on their employeesnot to mention the sales tax generated by their customer base). Why is it then that every time we turn around the government wants them to be less profitible. You would think it would help the government to keep these people in business.

Besides, we all know bad choices when we see them. Either eat out rarely and enjoy your meals when you do, or really take the responsibility to educate yourself and learn how to make good nutritional choices. It’s about more than the calories anyway.

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Olivia • April 23, 2008 at 8:50 am

I think forcing restaurants to post calorie counts will just result in shaming fat people. I’m fat, and day to day I follow a more intuitive eating approach to food. Since I only eat in restaurants 2-3 times a month I get whatever I want, the more cheese the better ;) I know what I order isn’t healthy, but I consider a meal out a treat. I don’t need a number on the menu to make me feel guilty about it.

I think if a person is interested in counting calories then they just need to seek out the info, and a pamphlet will work fine for them.

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Kate • April 23, 2008 at 9:06 am

Thanks for bringing up the smoking example. I agree with that. Sure, some people say, how dumb do you have to be to not realize that inhaling all the crap in cigarettes is bad for you – but yet people still smoked in large numbers. The warnings, along with other public information campaigns, have done a lot to reduce smoking. So when people also say “it’s not too hard to know to say no to a double cheeseburger and fries” I agree with that on the surface, but it is also much harder to tell the difference between less obvious menu items. For example, would you be able to tell right away whether a turkey, bacon and gorgonzola wrap had more calories and fat than a “mediterranean wrap” with hummus and feta? I would have guessed wrong myself, without the actual information in front of me. The vegeterian hummus wrap has more than twice the fat of the turkey wrap. And 100 more calories. So I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have nutritional information available to inform my choices.

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PastaQueen • April 23, 2008 at 10:35 am

I do like to take responsibility, but how can I if I don’t know what’s in the food I’m eating? It’s like asking someone to take responsibility for their spending in a store with no price tags. You can guess how much a gallon of milk will cost without looking at the price, but you might be surprised when the cashier rings it up. You will probably only be off by a dollar or two, but if you are off by 200-400 calories a day, that will make the difference between gaining weight or losing it. So yes, I know the fish is better than the beef, but exactly how much better?

I also do make my own food most of the time, but there are always social and work obligations that require that you eat out at restaurants which can’t be avoided.

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PastaQueen • April 23, 2008 at 10:44 am

Some restaurants are more strict about measurements than others. I know at Quiznos they weigh your chicken and they have a slicing board to precisely measure the bread. At chain restaurants, strict controls like that can add up to bigger savings since they’re precisely controlling their portions.

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Danielle • April 23, 2008 at 12:16 pm

Hi there, I’m new to Pasta Queen’s blog – love it! It’s nice to see such a great group of (mostly) positive people cheering for each other.

A quick question for the person who mentioned The Daily Plate. I can’t find the section where you can put in a recipe and get the calories, fat etc. info. Can you point me in the right direction? I’m hoping it isn’t right there on the homepage.

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Laura • April 23, 2008 at 2:51 pm

Danielle – go to “add an item”, and then on the left choose “click here to add a recipe.” It’s the best recipe calculator I’ve found because you can put in the specific brands of your ingredients, which makes a HUGE difference compared to ones that just take generic listings (e.g. chicken broth can be VERY different nutritionally from brand to brand).

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servetus • April 23, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Actually a lot of people go to restaurants because they want to celebrate something or be with people and the food is not their primary or even secondary reason for being there. Americans go to restaurants to socialize in way that (for example) Europeans don’t. They also use fast food in a way that (for example) Europeans don’t.

Stigmatization-because now if you are overweight, and you decide you want a bacon cheeseburger, you will not only have to get past the sighing of the waitress or cashier, your waiter or fellow diners will have the ammunition to criticize your choices explicitly. “Are you sure?” “Do you really want 800 calories and all that fat?” The people who think they should be helpful (e.g., by bringing you a Diet coke when you ordered a regular) will now have all kinds of pseudo-scientific information right at their hands to help them out.

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Danielle • April 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Thanks so much for getting back to me!

I’ll probably have a heart attack after work when I figure out how bad my favourite coconut cupcakes are.

Have a nice day!

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Merry • April 23, 2008 at 9:49 pm

Well, it’s not pseudoscientific, but I can see why you’d be upset in that case. If someone is acting rude, because of my weight or for some other reason, they’ve got worse problems than weight.

Thanks for expanding on your original comment.

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Sarah • April 24, 2008 at 12:13 am

I love nutritional information! I’m sort of a walking encyclopedia for all of Starbucks’s drinks and pastries.

The other day, my co-worker (of more than two years) was horrified to learn that our chocolate chip cookie contains something like 500 calories. It’s about the size of a hubcap, so I’m not sure why she was surprised by this.

Is it mean of me to feel a little sense of glee when I see people react to their newfound nutritional knowledge in such a visceral manner?

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Danielle • April 24, 2008 at 10:49 am

I agree – the restaurants that post their nutritional info online make me think twice about visiting… but then they’re probably no worse than the ones that keep it a secret. The Keg is a good example. There’s really nothing i’m willing to eat there except the plain baked potato.

Knowing what you’re eating in restaurants kinda kills the fun, doesn’t it?

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cathy • April 24, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Seeing how many calories I’m about to consume at one of the lovely non-chain restaurants I visit would be very much like Hester Prynne’s letter A and the Ancient Mariner’s albatross: I can do without the constant reminder.

Rather than support posting caloric information and making restaurants less like places to enjoy food and more like science labs, I’d be much more interested in getting consumers to think outside of the box when it comes genetically-modified, scientifically-engineered fast food.

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PastaQueen • April 24, 2008 at 8:47 pm

It would probably be easiest just to order a signed copy directly from me. When you factor how much it would cost to send your book back and forth, it’s a better deal anyway since you’ll get a whole other book for not that much more money.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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