Sunday, July 12, 2009

Just the facts, folks.

Remember about a year or so ago, when New York City began requiring certain types of restaurants to post calorie/nutrition information on the menus so that people could make better choices? Why isn't this a national law yet, requiring all chains (e.g., those with a certain number of locations operating under that brand) to do the same?

Right now, there is supposedly a law where restaurants are supposed to provide their nutrition facts to you, the consumer, upon demand. But best of luck, in most cases. In some cases.... well, they have it for the "lite style" menu items, but not for the rest of the menu listing. I'm not talking Mom & Pop restaurants; most of them do not have the financial resources to have their menus analyzed. And I can forgive that. But national or regional chains DO have a little more flexibility in their resources to be able to afford it. Even local chains or little Mom & Pops should be able at least to tell you the ingredients and rough estimates of portion sizes -- something that you can take home and figure out for the next time.

There is nothing quite as frustrating as to plan to go to a restaurant. So you look up their menu online, and see something that looks mostly healthy. You'd just like a little more details. But when you pull up their nutrition information at their website -- you don't get "Grilled Chicken Salad: 410 calories, 15 g fat, etc." but some lame crap about "We support making healthy choices, and here are a few that are lower in calories/lower in fat (however they claim to word it) ...." and list about 5 items. BUT NO CONCRETE FACTS.

I'll give the fast food places credit: they have this information handy! Mickey D's, Subway, Burger King, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Chick-Fil-A, and plenty more all not only have it but eagerly share it. Quite a few of the casual dining places do so as well. I know the Brinker brands offer it on their websites, and it seems that the Darden-owned chains do as well. Even Ruby Tuesday does -- and some of the choices that would seem healthy are purely GHASTLY instead (see: turkey burger, bison burger, etc.). How do you make a turkey burger into that monstrosity, and yet your 6 oz sirloin is lower in fat, calories, etc. Oh yeah: portion size......

Here's the question I'm asking myself: why do I patronize these places? Why I am not writing letters to their CEO asking them to provide more detailed information? Is their greed so rapacious that they are willing to lie or weasel around it just to get my dollar? Apparently so. And since they have no qualms about hitting me in the heart with their fare, I no longer have qualms about hitting them in their wallet.

I know that sometimes, you simply have to guess and do the best you can with the choices available. I have no problem with that. But the more informed we are as consumers, the better it will be. Perhaps restaurant chains will realize, "Hey, this item isn't selling, and it's because people don't want something so unhealthy. Let's earn their business again by offering something they want."

But then again, obviously, we as a nation have spoken: did you see the recent obesity statistics for 2008? Every single state got fatter. Even Colorado (still the healthiest at less than 20% obese) had an increase in their percentage. And of course, we in the South -- where the food is TDF good and the coronary disease is rampant -- still has the top 5 (including good ol' SC). We're just a shade under 30% obese adults.

To me, this is the next "Big Tobacco" lawsuit waiting to happen. Food addiction: the only addiction where you have to have the drug to survive, literally. You cannot run, you cannot hide, you cannot avoid. For years, the lawsuits against Mickey D's (for example) of the "I didn't know that eating all that crud would do this to me" -- yeah, I got peeved about those, even as an obese person. I'm purely in favor of some personal responsibility instead of the chant of "it's not my fault." But Big Food is lying to us as surely as Big Tobacco did for years, and they've done EVERYTHING they can to hook the next generation.

So what do we do to get them to see that it's not worth it if they help create a generation that won't live long enough to take their kids (let alone their grandkids) to Mickey D's for a birthday party? Or won't be a patron long enough to make it worthwhile? Why don't they get it?

Nutrition facts. Allow me to choose what I want to eat. I don't mind the "healthy suggestions" but give me the skinny, and let me decide. If it means I choose not to eat at your establishment, then so be it. Give me better options. But give me the facts first.


S. said...

I agree. I'm perfectly willing to eat outrageous meals and I'll plan accordingly for them, but if I can't get the information that will allow me to plan, I'll go somewhere else. I wish that more restaurants understood that they are essentially shooting themselves in the feet. Lots and lots of people don't care one bit about nutrition information (I know I didn't) and are going to eat somewhere regardless of whatever it says on the supplemental nutrition menu, but those of us who do care (and that's no small amount) are going to stop going to places where we can't find out what we need to know.

Ballz said...

I haven't ever had the challenge that you had Nettie, but I completely agree with you about the nutrition information. I want a "real" portion, instead of some double or triple value portion being pushed on me by one of the chains. That's just plain stupid that restaurants do that. I really like how McD's actually prints it on some of their wrappers now.

Talmadge Gleck said...

Hear, hear!

It's all about CHOICE ... and as my wife will tell you, if I cannot figure out the points (even ballpark), I will not eat there when I'm on program.

Their loss, not mine. No, wait. It's IS my loss ... heh.

(verification = "spectr" ... poor Ronnie .... )