Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Are You (Sure You're) Gonna Eat That? ...

I just read this piece in the New York Times about whether or not restaurants should be required to post the calorie content of food in the menus.

Restaurants are fighting it, because it would be "cumbersome" and it wouldn't make a dent in the obesity epidemic?

Oh really?

Or are restaurants afraid of diners finding out just how craptastic the food is? During a recent craving for a burrito (don't ask me where it came from; I almost never eat burritos), I visited Chili's nutrition information online. I couldn't remember if Chili's had burritos. It doesn't. But may I just say: HOLY CRAP! A Mushroom Swiss burger, which I order every once in a while, has 1,100 calories. JUST THE BURGER. WITHOUT THE FRIES. ELEVEN HUNDRED CALORIES. And SEVENTY-ONE grams of fat!

Will I ever order it again? Hell no. Did I have any idea it was that bad for me? Hell no. I knew it wasn't health food, but 1,100 calories? And 71 grams of fat?

If the nutrition information is compiled and published online, it can just as easily be inserted into the back of a menu.

I like junk food as much as the next person (maybe more), but when I know what I'm about to eat, my intellect kicks in and says, "You can't eat that!" Years ago, I wanted a Haagen-Dazs chocolate almond ice cream bar. I walked to the store. I picked up the box. I turned it over. I saw that it contained 28 grams of fat. I put it back. And I haven't eaten one since. It's simply not an option for me.

So hell yeah, seeing the calorie listings in a menu would shape what I ordered. And I think that's exactly what the restaurants are afraid of.

Check out this new offering from Chili's:

Buffalo Chicken Fajitas. One skillet contains 1,090 calories and 76 grams of fat. Not including the tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese, or sour cream.

Maybe you'd like to share an Awesome Blossom to start. One Awesome Blossom with Seasoned Sauce contains 2,710 calories and 203 grams of fat. Going to splurge on dessert? A Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream will cost you 1,600 calories.

The nutrition information doesn't list the drinks. So let's presume you're just drinking water, you know, because you want to be good. Half an Awesome Blossom with Sesaoned Sauce, the Buffalo Chicken Fajitas skillet (without all the fixings), and the Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream will set you back 4,042 calories.



That's about twice as many calories as most people should eat in an entire day.

And keep in mind that 3,500 calories equals a pound. Eat that meal and you will instantly gain more than a pound, because, let's be honest, you're not about to run a marathon after that meal to burn it off.

Let's just list a few more items, for kicks:

Fajita Chicken Quesadillas - 1,830 calories

Caesar Salad with Chicken & Caesar Dressing - 1,010 calories

Classic Nachos with Pico de Gallo and Sour Cream - 1,450 calories

Ooh, my favorite, the Mashed Potatoes with Black Pepper Gravy - 450 calories (Hey, only 450 calories! Too bad that's for a SIDE DISH!)

Of course, Chili's has the Guiltless Grill for those who want to make healthy choices. The Big Mouth Bun is listed separately. It has, unbuttered, 330 calories. And let's face it: Not many people are going to Chili's to order a Guiltless Black Bean Burger and a side of rice. But if you do, it'll cost you 860 calories.

Yep, I'm thinking restaurants don't want us to know what we're eating.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just ate Chili's quesadilla explosion salad. It was delicious.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Oh, I don't dispute that Chili's food tastes good. But a salad that has nearly 1,000 calories and 50 grams of fat just doesn't fit into my lifestyle. Glad you enjoyed it, though.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous JoLynn Braley said...

Hi Beth,

I used to love eating at Chili's, it's been so long since I've been there.

I think this falls into the "ignorance is bliss" category, at least from the customer perspective....I never knew how calorie and fat laden their dishes were, and I probably didn't want to think about it at the time. I'm like you, when I know what's in it, I get turned off.

The restaurants know this, too, and don't want to ruin the illusion of their great tasting food.

Lastly, the calories you pointed out are unbelievable, and I'm not someone who counts calories! It's amazing just how many you can pack in so quickly with this food.

10:59 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

It's truly amazing. Especially the calorie count on the salads.

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Corner Bakery Harvest Salad with chicken (sounds relatively healthy, right?) used to be a lunch regular for me... UNTIL I found out that it was 980 calories and SEVENTY-TWO (7-2) grams of fat. I haven't been back since. So, yes, the restaurants should be scared that they will lose customers. Corner Bakery lost one.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

I have to admit I have never counted calories. I have a high metabolism and can eat anything without gaining weight (for a guy it's really more of a curse than a blessing). That having been said, I agree that restaurants probably don't want people to know the calorie count of their food. I suspect that they worry they will lose customers. Personally, I think it's a good idea if they do list the nutritional info. Beyond those watching their weight, it would be useful for diabetics like my sister who have to watch their sugar and carbohydrate intake.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

Mercurie said...and can eat anything without gaining weight
I hate you.

Anyway, one meal does not a diet break. Is 4000 calories excessive? Sure. Does it set you back? Sure. Will it matter one month from now if you spend the other 30 days watching what you eat and doing all the things you're supposed to be doing? No.

As to Mom, we're happy you lost the weight. Just because you're not in the biggie club anymore doesn't mean it's any easier for the rest of us.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll stick to Boston Market Turkey now.

1:16 PM  
Anonymous crazy chicago girl said...

If you think their ridiculous calorie counts are bad, just have one look at the sodium. My boyfriend is on a sodium monitored diet, and we had never noticed it before, but his favorite dish at chili's was 5000mg of sodium! Not even McDonalds comes that close!

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Food Lover said...

i don't think that counting calories is a bad thing. you need to watch what you are eating. i mean, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that cheese is high in calories or that the candied walnuts are also high in calories. you just gotta be smart about what you eat otherwise, you will become part of america's obesity problem.

4:30 PM  

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