Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Calories On Menus - Good Idea or Bad?

There is much debating going on as to whether there is any benefit in showing the calorie count of dishes on menus. In New York  it’s been compulsory since 2008 for fast-food restaurants to show the calorie content of their food and from July 2011, Californian chains with 20 or more locations will have to provide brochures indicating the nutritional information of each item.

So far, it appears not to have made much difference to people's overall eating habits in the US. Here in the UK, the Government wants to introduce a voluntary scheme whereby fast-food outlets and company canteens will be pressured to show the number of calories in their foods.

Obviously the reasoning behind all this is to make people aware of how many calories they are consuming. Research shows that people regularly underestimate the number of calories they eat. By showing the calorie count and other nutritional information, people will be able to make an informed decision before ordering their meal.

However, not all those in the restaurant trade are so enthusiastic. Some restaurant chefs, for example, believe that when you’re dining out, you are looking forward to eating good food and should not be concerned with calories. And, naturally, trained chefs who prepare their food with the best ingredients, do not want their food compared with fast food.

Certainly you can't compare restaurant food with fast food. But it's well known that chefs love to use copious amounts of butter and cream in their dishes, because, well, it tastes so good. But many people need to watch their fat intake and something that’s high in saturated fat could pose a real risk to them. Having such information available could indeed help such people avoid ordering such a dish.

People are already used to looking for calorie counts and nutritional information on products in the supermarket, so putting such information onto menus shouldn’t come as a total shock. For those who don’t want to know the calories in their meal, have separate menus, with and without such information. Or, for a more environmentally friendly option, why not have a lift-up flap that reveals the nutritional content for those who want to know?

Read more here.


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