Counting Calories at Restaurants or…



I Ate All That!!?

There is this big deal going on right now about laws requiring restaurants to make nutritional information easily available to customers. Do we really want to know? And if we did know, would that help us make good choices?

Today, for example, I made the mistake of going out to eat without thinking about what I was doing. The opposite of mindful eating, I impulsively ordered the Smokehouse Turkey Panini.  Turkey's lean, right? My friend is my witness, I took one bite and I said,"This is NOT lean. This is too good (munch, munch). I'll bet this is a gazillion calories (munch, munch)."  At least I chose the apple side dish as opposed to chips or bread (we were at Panera). I was full by the time I demolished half the panini. Another sign this innocent looking sandwich was a calorie bomb because I do not get full easily. So I piled a wadded up napkin on the rest before I was tempted to mindlessly gobble it up. It was a lovely lunch.

On my way home what was on the radio? A talk show (Talk of the Nation, NPR) about the new food law and other similar laws. For or against? Discuss. There were many sides to the argument, all having good points. The person with diabetes would like to go out to eat knowing the food won't send him into a coma. The restaurant owner pulls her hair out because she has to pay laboratories to determine the calorie count of the thirty-six items on her menu. This costs her over ten thousand dollars. Who pays for that?

Back home, just out of morbid curiosity I looked up the Panera web site. Panera provides the nutritional information on many of their menu items. Sure enough my little turkey panini had 860 calories (36 whopping grams of fat)! Only I ate half of it, OK, OK, probably more like two-thirds. Rats.

If I planned better, if my brain were better engaged, I could have checked the Panera menu on-line before setting foot in the restaurant. What would I have chosen? The Grilled Chicken Caesar? 510 calories/28 g. fat. Or maybe the Greek Salad? 440 cal/39 g. fat. How about The Classic Cafe Salad? 170 cal/11g. fat. Geeesh!

Would I have decided differently if the calorie count were listed directly on the menu in the restaurant? Very likely. But then the burden of my health is placed on Panera which doesn't seem right.

Not being one to spend much time beating myself up, I focused on the positive. I did get the apple, not the chips. And I had a diet soda.

But wait! Don't diet sodas make you fat?

3 comments


  • SD

    Dr Aletta,
    Pizzaria Uno has a portal in their lobby that allows you to get the nutritional information on the items in their menu. Now I realize it will be bad when I walk in there. Not only is it Pizza but deep dish pizza and every once in a while well worth it. My problem was when I looked at the information they stated one of their small (Uno as in pizza for one) pizzas was three servings. Be serious. It is not three servings and the worst part I believe one serving was 30g of fat.
    So maybe when I go out I really don’t want to know and I just want to enjoy the meal.

    2009/01/13
  • Serving sizes is another thing to consider and a pet peeve of mine because they are rarely what a reasonable person would call a serving, it’s always less.
    One standby suggestion I hear over and over again is to take food home. If I had been more aware yesterday I could have stopped at half and either take the rest home or throw it out.
    But, you are right, there some times when it’s best to stop over-thinking and just enjoy!

    2009/01/13
  • Two quick comments: If someone eats out once a week I agree it would not matter as much, but what about individual who eats out 3 to 4 times per week? They need to be mindfull of what they select.
    As far as the burden on the restaurant owner I believe any requirement to provide nutritional info similar to the Nutrition Facts label should only be required for chains not individual restaurants. And if the info was posted on their web site you could check it out before going to your favorite chain restaurant.

    2010/02/11

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