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Do Calories on Menus Really Help?

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Sacto_Damkier Mar 6, 2007 10:40 AM

I read about the new law in New York City about listing calories directly on the menu in restaruants. While I prefer to have nutritional information readily available (i.e. calories, fat content, fiber), does anyone think this would actually make people make better decisions? My opinion is that people who care about calories will not order those items anyway and are not the target of such regulations. I think that the intended target will likely ignore or not understand the calorie count, defeating the purpose of the law. Plus, is it really possible to know the exact calories in each prepared dish?

Thoughts?

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    Faraway11 RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 6, 2007 11:06 AM

    I don't think it is a terrible idea. I think people are sometimes oblivious as to what is actually healthy for them. People order the "healthy salad lunch" and forget about the additional items that will in fact make their nutritious meal not so great for them, like bacon or cheese or whatever it may be. Listing the calories certainly won't hurt anyone.

    1. MeAndroo RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 6, 2007 12:05 PM

      I don't think it's necessarily a good idea to have them listed in their entirety. As a person who's made sacrifices food-wise to lose weight, I know there's days where you HAVE to splurge and knowing the caloric content would just ruin that escape.

      But Faraway has a great point. I've heard of restaurants serving 1000 calorie salds with 20 grams of fat, simply due to the stuff you don't think about. I think a compromise in casual restaurants might be to supply each table with a set of the calories, much like they do with specials (either as an insert or separate). That way the option is always present, but not necessarilly forcing you to pursue it. Then people who don't care and people who don't know will each be able to do as they wish.

      1. Chowpatty RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 6, 2007 04:04 PM

        I think it's a good idea, although it might seem intrusive at fine dining restaurants. I have to say that once Baja Fresh started publishing their calorie counts, I never ate another burrito there. I'm saving my burrito calories for when I happen to be in the REAL burrito havens!

        12 Replies
        1. re: Chowpatty
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          Humbucker RE: Chowpatty Mar 6, 2007 10:47 PM

          Same thing happened to me! I used to eat Chipotle a lot, too. Now, no more Baja Fresh or Chipotle. If I'm going to blow 1K+ cals on a burrito I'm going all out on a Carnitas super burrito with guac from a taqueria.

          1. re: Chowpatty
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            yehfromthebay RE: Chowpatty Feb 3, 2011 11:16 AM

            I went to Baja Fresh for the first time in a long time yesterday and was shocked by the calorie content in their burritos. I opted for 2 fish tacos instead. I'm not a weight watcher but I find it disgusting that a burrito could contain that many calories. So....yes, I think requiring calories on the menu is a great idea. Maybe it'll get some of these chains to strategize on how to make healthier meals. I also think they should start advertising sodium content. I'm sure that info would be a shocker.

            1. re: yehfromthebay
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              Cathy RE: yehfromthebay Feb 3, 2011 11:42 AM

              You do know they will just make smaller items...

              All nutrition information is available and has been for years, either from pamphlets they handout and/or posters on the walls and online.

              I don't understand why so many people are suddenly surprised. Oh wait. This is a thread from 2007...

              1. re: Cathy
                im_nomad RE: Cathy Feb 3, 2011 12:03 PM

                I don't understand it either, even without the nutrition information. It's like when there was that article on the calories in some of the big Starbucks drinks there a while back. Something loaded with cream and sugar and people think they're getting a light beverage?

                1. re: im_nomad
                  chowser RE: im_nomad Feb 3, 2011 12:53 PM

                  Maybe they don't think it's a light beverage but don't know how many calories are in one. I've never had one and have no idea how much cream they put in. I wouldn't have thought it's more than a whole meals worth of calories but it apparently is. And, that's the case with smoothie places, too--the ones I made at home are very healthy. I have no idea what each smoothie place does and what they put in them. I've been surprised at some of the counts. I know it's not a light drink, I just don't know how much it ends up.

                  1. re: im_nomad
                    iluvtennis RE: im_nomad Feb 4, 2011 11:20 AM

                    You might not understand it, but unfortunately there are a lot of people out there that really don't realize how many calories things contain. My husband has only recently begun to realize how many calories some of his favorite foods contain. I think that deep down, they know the crap they are eating isn't healthy but when they reallly stop and look at how many calories something contains, it knocks them down.

                    We're both going to a personal trainer right now and have been logging our calories. He can't believe that the ice cream sundae he knew was unhealthy is actually so unhealthy that it has nearly an entire's day worht of calories in it. Some people want to be blissfully ignorant and i think for those people, when they are confronted with this information, it is a wake up call.

                    1. re: im_nomad
                      westsidegal RE: im_nomad Mar 4, 2011 09:50 PM

                      they may not think it's a light beverage, but they may not know that it contains enough calories and fat to sustain them for an entire day.

                      there's a difference between a 'little treat' and one that exceeds your entire daily caloric allotment.

                    2. re: Cathy
                      thew RE: Cathy Feb 3, 2011 02:02 PM

                      smaller items might not be a bad thing when the current ones have 1800 calories and 30 gms of fat

                      1. re: thew
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                        MichelleRenee RE: thew Mar 4, 2011 02:22 PM

                        I considered that a plus, as well.

                      2. re: Cathy
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                        mpjmph RE: Cathy Feb 3, 2011 05:13 PM

                        No, not all nutrition information has been available for years. Some chains have freely distributed the info while others have flat out refused to make it available (at least in states that haven't required it). Consumers have a right to know what is in the food their buying, both the ingredients and the nutrition break down. I'm not super excited about printing it on menus, but if it encourages chains to provide lower calorie options it's a good thing (even if it's just smaller portions). At the very least restaurants need to make nutrition information readily available at all locations.

                        1. re: Cathy
                          iluvtennis RE: Cathy Feb 4, 2011 11:21 AM

                          And the problem with making the items smaller is?

                          1. re: Cathy
                            jgg13 RE: Cathy Feb 4, 2011 01:17 PM

                            2007 is still hard to believe all the fuss. I was on a calorie counting kick in the late '90s, and even then I could find nutritional info for most chain stuff I would hit up on the web - didn't even have to look in the stores themselves (but they were still typically there)

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                        piccola RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 6, 2007 04:44 PM

                        I think there's a happy medium. The info should be readily available - in a booklet on the table for sit-down places, on a big board for take-out - so the people who care can find it and not feel like killjoys for asking.

                        I'm always careful when eating in restaurants, but sometimes something that appears healthy can be the opposite - like "steamed veggies" drenched in fat and salt, or a lowfat pasta dish that's five times the right serving size. Having the nutrionals there gives you a reality check.

                        1. Karl S RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 6, 2007 04:59 PM

                          It's an excellent idea. Why? Well, even though it can only provide averages, it will help show much of the calories hidden from the eyes. Like the extra oil or butter that might go unnoticed by the untrained eye and tongue. It can help people determine how much of a serving they will actually eat, thus going a looong way to address the issue of portion control that is essential to both fine dining and health but that has been lost in much of American dining in the past 20 years.

                          And it is possible to create average calories (and nutrional info) per serving from any well-crafted recipe. I do it all the time, using a simple Excel spreadsheet into which I have embedded formulas. Cost=zero. For each component ingredient, provide the total weight in grams of fat, protein, alcohol sugars, carbs & fiber. Formulas will calculate total calories; determine portion size (and any well-run restaurant will carefully calibrate portion sizes to ensure its profit margin) and divide by the number of portions. Very simple indeed. And very informative.

                          1. oolah RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 6, 2007 05:17 PM

                            The law only applies to fast food restaurants. You won't see how many calories are in your foie gras at Jean Georges.

                            http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/12/13/...

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                              odkaty RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 7, 2007 10:18 AM

                              I'd love it if it were just a number at the end of the description - like a little 60% grey text number + kcal. That's it. No elaboration, nothing else.

                              I was seriously craving a salad one night and the fridge was empty so the husband and I went to one of our gazillion local chain restaurants (the sum total of Bowie restaurants unless you want Chinese food) - Unos. It was a 10-15 minute wait so we fiddled around with the calorie kiosk thing and discovered that the salad I was going to order "spinach, chicken, gorganzola, leave off the chicken" was 800+ calories. The "shroom" pizza my husband normally orders is 2000+ calories. Ugh. We left and went to Chipolte where I had one of their vegetarian salads - where depending on my mood (guacamole or not) I eat 400-600 calories.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: odkaty
                                Karl S RE: odkaty Mar 7, 2007 10:43 AM

                                It's even worse when people eat Chinese or Indian buffet, thinking it's "healthier" than McDonald's but not realizing how much oil is added to keep it all glistening and attractive under or over heat....

                                1. re: Karl S
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                                  odkaty RE: Karl S Mar 7, 2007 12:46 PM

                                  Score! I just found an article proving my point - calories should be included!
                                  http://www.cspinet.org
                                  see "Chain Restaurants Charged with Promoting 'Extreme Eating'"

                                  How sick are some of those caloric totals? Ugh. I might be ill.

                                  1. re: odkaty
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                                    p.j. RE: odkaty Mar 8, 2007 08:47 AM

                                    Great article, odkaty. Thanks very much. I know I reconsider what I am ordering when I know the calorie & fat & sodium counts of what I am ordering.
                                    p.j.

                                    1. re: odkaty
                                      hotoynoodle RE: odkaty Mar 8, 2007 10:00 AM

                                      this is the same group that created hysteria over movie popcorn and chinese food a few years back.

                                2. j
                                  JoLi RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 8, 2007 08:51 AM

                                  I think it's brilliant. But I can see how some people might be turned off by it. I agree with MeAndroo, it should be an option.

                                  1. orangewasabi RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 8, 2007 09:43 AM

                                    I can't decide if I like this idea or not. Then, I never eat at the chain restaurants to which this legislation would apply. For sure it would massively reduce my eating out -- not sure if I want to keep my blissful ignorance or not?

                                    1. hotoynoodle RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 8, 2007 10:07 AM

                                      i'll be the voice of dissension here. for years the fact of gigantic portions, supersizing, and add-ons has been all over the news and in every magazine and newspaper. bagels used to be 3oz, now they are 6 or 8. that's a full day's worth of carbohydrates. a salad twice as big as your head loaded with bacon and gorgonzola and nuts and creamy dressing and probably 5 or 6 oz of chicken (2 days worth of protein) can't possibly be a "healthy option."

                                      restaurants are providing a service. when did people become so out of touch with what they put in their mouths that they think it should be the restaurant's responsibility to nanny them?

                                      i don't eat at chain restaurants, for numerous reasons, but you can decide to not order the "colossal burger" and be pro-active about your own health.

                                      12 Replies
                                      1. re: hotoynoodle
                                        MeAndroo RE: hotoynoodle Mar 8, 2007 10:25 AM

                                        I think the official point at which people became out of touch with what they're eating was when the % of obese people in America passed 1 in 5. It's approaching 1 in 4. The number is skewed because I'm pretty sure it's based on BMI, which is unrealistic, but the trend is still there. This issue really boils down to your political viewpoint, and whether you want the government further regulating the restaurant industry.

                                        Should people be more pro-active about health? Absolutely. Is that happening? On the average, no. On a personal level, I find looking up nutritional content to be a great way to eat right. Seeing that burger has 900 calories tends to curb my craving...not always, but often enough.

                                        1. re: MeAndroo
                                          hotoynoodle RE: MeAndroo Mar 8, 2007 12:23 PM

                                          it's actually 60% now, with a special category of *super-obese* on a dramatic uprise.

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle
                                            MeAndroo RE: hotoynoodle Mar 8, 2007 12:32 PM

                                            Well that's depressing. I had googled a 2005 report on obesity that put it at 23%. I guess a year and a quarter make a difference.

                                        2. re: hotoynoodle
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                                          bonmann RE: hotoynoodle Mar 10, 2007 05:09 AM

                                          I once saw Paula Dean asked about the amount of butter she put in her recipes. Her response was I am your cook not your nurse.

                                          I agree with your point that it is not the restaurants job to tell people what they should already know. On the other hand this tends to be the American way of doing everything. Don't want people to be obese, make the restaurant monitor them. Don't want people to smoke, make it harder to find places that allow smoking.

                                          I also think you are right about portion size. When I do go out, I never eat more than half the food on my plate, simply because that is the appropriate amount of food. Interestingly I frequently get many comments from companions about how little I eat. People no longer have any idea about what a proper portion looks like.

                                          1. re: bonmann
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                                            piccola RE: bonmann Mar 10, 2007 06:07 PM

                                            I think your logic here is wrong. It's not asking the restaurants to monitor people, it's asking them to provide info so people can monitor themselves. Kind of like governments need to make info public so people can make informed decisions.

                                            A lot of food prep in restaurants is counter-intuitive. I never would have thought McD's used beef tallow in their fries, because common sense says fries are cooked in oil. So it's good to make restaurants become transparent.

                                            1. re: piccola
                                              chowser RE: piccola Mar 11, 2007 05:51 PM

                                              I agree--there are the obvious foods that we all know are fattening but who thought small non-buttered popcorn from movie theaters was so much worst than an extra large snickers bar? It's like having nutritional information on food in grocery stores. I don't understand how giving people information is monitoring them and I don't know how anyone could know how every item on every menu of every restaurant is prepared.

                                              1. re: piccola
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                                                bonmann RE: piccola Mar 13, 2007 09:35 AM

                                                While I concede your point that it is supposed to be informational, I think by applying the law only to fast food restaurants is an odd way to provide educational information. If the information is truly useful for individuals to make choices then it seems it would be useful to everyone all the time. But if it is only applied at some restaurants it seem more like monitoring of those restaurants or types to restaurants rather than informational.

                                                1. re: bonmann
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                                                  piccola RE: bonmann Mar 13, 2007 06:29 PM

                                                  I think it's because fast-food places use standardized recipes, so it's easier to calculate nutritional info.

                                                  They also don't change their menus as often as other restaurants (when they do, it's usually to add/remove one dish). A regular restaurant would have to go through the whole process every time it changes the menu.

                                                  One more point: fast-food places are owned by big companies with huge budgets, while most local restaurants are owned by entrepreneurs who can't always afford to have their menus tested, etc. The idea is to put pressure on companies, not local businesses.

                                                  1. re: piccola
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                                                    bonmann RE: piccola Mar 14, 2007 07:06 AM

                                                    I do understand your point but it just seems like the idea is to help everyone. But compliance is only required based on the restaurants ability to pay and not the need for information.

                                                    It's not the concept I have a problem with it is the execution.

                                                    1. re: piccola
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                                                      Braniff RE: piccola Aug 11, 2008 07:44 AM

                                                      Your comment begs a question: could state universities (i. e. extension services, perhaps) test the food of local restaurants for calories, fat, carbs and the like, perhaps for a small fee? Such services could also provide information about nutrition to restaurants, both local and chain (fast food and otherwise).

                                                      1. re: Braniff
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                                                        Basiorana RE: Braniff Feb 7, 2011 02:52 PM

                                                        In chains, you have measuring tools and preportioned amounts, so the calorie amount listed is likely accurate. Most restaurants take a more relaxed approach and are less standardized, meaning that there is a 10-50 calorie difference between one patron's meal and another. It would have to be an estimate any way.

                                                        1. re: Basiorana
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                                                          hungryabbey RE: Basiorana Mar 5, 2011 05:30 PM

                                                          oh much more then 10-50 difference.. I would estimate more like 100-500 kcal

                                            2. s
                                              swsidejim RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 8, 2007 12:27 PM

                                              Posting the calories/nutritional information wouldnt have an effect on me, I dont watch, or really care about either when picking an item off the menu.. When I go out, I go out to indulge, not worry about what might be deemed healthy or unhealthy by some..

                                              For the record I am not obese either, I am 6'1 175.

                                              10 Replies
                                              1. re: swsidejim
                                                MeAndroo RE: swsidejim Mar 8, 2007 12:36 PM

                                                I think there's definitely something to be said for that indulging feeling, not caring whether the meal has 100 or 1000 calories. It can be very liberating. I also go out mainly to have a good time and escape from whatever worries I may have, whether it be health related or not. But I also go out on occasion just to go out. I'd like to have access to nutritional value at some level and it's not always on the website.

                                                Perhaps it isn't a matter of having the caloric content on the menu or table, but available by request. Though this has the problem of being annoying and, to some, pointless to enforce, as shown in "Super Size Me."

                                                1. re: MeAndroo
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                                                  swsidejim RE: MeAndroo Mar 8, 2007 12:40 PM

                                                  I can understand your reasons for wanting access to this information.

                                                  As a former cook, and some one who knows what ingredients go into different dishes, I pretty much know what I probably shouldnt eat in excess.. I think as most of us know moderation is the key.

                                                  1. re: swsidejim
                                                    Karl S RE: swsidejim Mar 8, 2007 12:55 PM

                                                    The caloric information is a key to gauge portion size. Unless we are familiar with the portions of a place (McDonald's most of us probably are by now...), it's difficult for a lot of people to get a sense of proper portion size without caloric information. It's like flying without radio capability. There are lots of non-obvious analogues to landmines. Like the fact that, when McDonald's switched from tallow to vegetable oil to lower the saturated fat content of its fries, the caloric load per unit serving went up by over 30%!

                                                    1. re: Karl S
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                                                      swsidejim RE: Karl S Mar 8, 2007 01:02 PM

                                                      I dont monitor portion size for myself. I also do not finish every morsel of food on my plate.

                                                      I think it comes doen to self control, and moderation as I mentioned before. That and burning more calories than you take in, otherwise a person will gain weight.

                                                      I think we all know alfredo sauce, and things like that are not lo-cal, and probably shouldnt be consumed every day. I think it is the diners responsibility to monitor themselves, & become informed, not the restaurants, or the governments responsibility.

                                                      Just my humble opinion.

                                                      1. re: swsidejim
                                                        Karl S RE: swsidejim Mar 8, 2007 01:56 PM

                                                        But providing the calories on the menu empowers people to become informed so they can better monitor themselves. It only requires restaurants to provide information; it does not dictate how the restaurants makes or serves the food.

                                                        1. re: Karl S
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                                                          swsidejim RE: Karl S Mar 8, 2007 01:58 PM

                                                          i hear, and understand where you are coming from.

                                                          Perhaps I am at an advantage regarding knowing what most restaurant dishes ingredient list consists of since i made many when I was a cook.

                                                          1. re: swsidejim
                                                            Karl S RE: swsidejim Mar 8, 2007 03:28 PM

                                                            I am a cook and am pretty good at deconstructing a fair bit of foods with my eye, but i also know that butter and oil and muscular fat can be hidden from the eye very easily, so that one can be quite surprised how things that look similar to the eye might been a few hundred calories apart in calories. That's what providing the information will help remedy.

                                                      2. re: Karl S
                                                        hotoynoodle RE: Karl S Mar 8, 2007 09:30 PM

                                                        karl_s,

                                                        "The caloric information is a key to gauge portion size. Unless we are familiar with the portions of a place (McDonald's most of us probably are by now...), it's difficult for a lot of people to get a sense of proper portion size without caloric information."

                                                        a few years ago there was frozen yogurt chain in nyc. concept took off like wild fire. a *serving* was 100 calories. a local news channel ordered undercover at a handful of locations and were more frequently served 3-6 oz. so that carefree bit of sweetness was now a diet saboteur.

                                                        one summer in college, i worked in an ice cream store. a "small" was 3 oz. we eyeballed the scoops. the owner would troop in every so often and weigh our cups. more often than not, we were serving 6-8 oz.

                                                        so if a serving of fries at mickey d's is supposed to be 2oz (or whatever), have you ever seen the kid weigh it before you get it?

                                                        where does the policing stop? and why is the onus on the restaurant? YOU (the royal you, not you, karl) are eating it.

                                                        i'm befuddled by when americans became so helpless about their eating habits. stop blaming the chains. if people stopped ordering the colossal burger, they'd stop serving them. anybody remember the "mclean?" that lasted about 30 seconds. yeah, everybody wants healthy food. right.

                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                          Karl S RE: hotoynoodle Mar 9, 2007 01:26 AM

                                                          Well, the proper policing for this is...profit. A restaurant that is going to remain profitable has to monitor portioning fairly well.

                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle
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                                                            Basiorana RE: hotoynoodle Feb 7, 2011 02:54 PM

                                                            McDonalds is pretty accurate, within an ounce. Their containers are designed to fit the right amount each time.

                                                  2. jfood RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 8, 2007 04:00 PM

                                                    I am fully in favor of all the information I can get. But I do not want it to ruin my dinner. It should be included in the menu at the back. I can cross-reference what I plan to order and then decide. I really do not want it up close and personal in the menu itself. What I do not want to see is:

                                                    Seared Foie Gras with carmelized apples - Calories 1400; fat 24 grams you fat idiot
                                                    Lettuce and Hearts of palm with a lite raspberry vinaigrette - Calories 140; fat 1 gram so you can live longer and not enjoy life.

                                                    I want the information but not my mother on my shoulder.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: jfood
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                                                      Sacto_Damkier RE: jfood Mar 8, 2007 07:39 PM

                                                      Very funny reply.

                                                      1. re: jfood
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                                                        odkaty RE: jfood Mar 9, 2007 05:06 AM

                                                        Or big brother?? :-)

                                                        I'd like the info right there plain as day on the menu for two reasons:
                                                        1- many people just don't realize what they are ingesting/what goes into a meal/or they cook smart at home and don't realize restaurants use full fat, lots of butter, whole milk, etc. Thus it holds the patron accountable.
                                                        2- In the same way the calorie/fat content holds the patron accountable for their own choice it holds the chef accountable for their decisions on portion size, extravagant ingredients (sorry, not all equate good eats)

                                                        Thus my earlier suggestion that the calorie content be a light, subtle number. Nothing else. Say "Seared Foie Gras with Carmelized Apples (1400 kcal)" with the (xx) in 50-60% color and 2/3 size of the normal text. Emphasis on subtle.

                                                        1. re: jfood
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                                                          nkeane RE: jfood Jan 30, 2011 03:29 PM

                                                          funny but either that is an entire orchard of apples on 1oz of foie or, to get to 1400cal it would be more like 125g of fat!! lol
                                                          fwiw, I'd order both of those dishes....at the same meal.

                                                        2. r
                                                          ryssiebee RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 9, 2007 01:41 AM

                                                          Personally, if I knew that a restaurant was listing its calories on the menu, I would probably avoid eating there. I would probably have a tendency to order based on nutritional vallue more than by what I really wanted. I mean, I wouldn't order whatever had the least calories but I might think twice if what really made my mouth water had one of the highest calorie counts. And that's no way to live because if you're going out to eat and paying the money for it, you might as well get what you like and eat it sensibly, ie don't stuff yourself. This is just another way to make people anxious about their lives and too fixated on numbers. I already have a tough enough time trying to remain free of this rigid anxiety, and I don't need to be staring at sterile numbers when I look at a menu.

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: ryssiebee
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                                                            Braniff RE: ryssiebee Aug 11, 2008 07:47 AM

                                                            I disagree. There are a few restaurants in my area (such as the Cheesecake Factory, the Machine Shed and the food stands at the Iowa State Fair) which I will not patronize because the food items have too many calories and too much fat. If I were to know how much fat or calories their food items had, I'd feel better about going there.

                                                            1. re: Braniff
                                                              jgg13 RE: Braniff Aug 11, 2008 01:04 PM

                                                              Which is exactly why this thing should be at teh option of the eatery and not legislated. Let them choose to put them there or not and then let people vote with their wallets.

                                                              1. re: Braniff
                                                                scubadoo97 RE: Braniff Feb 5, 2011 07:58 AM

                                                                Cheesecake Factory has calorie information on all their items on their menu.

                                                                1. re: scubadoo97
                                                                  junescook RE: scubadoo97 Feb 7, 2011 01:36 PM

                                                                  They certainly should given the not so logical differences between e.g., a factory burger at 737 calories and a grilled turkey burger at 1331 cals. I'm not so sure that they show the calorie count in every state:

                                                                  http://www.thecheesecakefactory.com/r...

                                                                  1. re: junescook
                                                                    scubadoo97 RE: junescook Feb 7, 2011 01:48 PM

                                                                    I've only eaten at a CF a couple of times but the last time I did they had the calorie information and it did sway my decision on what to order or better yet, what not to order.

                                                                    I think the thing that is most surprising to most is that salads in chain restaurants can have a whopping amount of fat and calories far exceeding many other dishes on the menu that one would think is more fattening.

                                                                    1. re: junescook
                                                                      chowser RE: junescook Feb 7, 2011 01:52 PM

                                                                      Interesting. I'd especially want the calorie count at a place like the Cheesecake Factory since I don't love the food and want to minimize the damage. I would have thought a turkey burger would be lower in fat--otherwise, why would someone order one? I always find them dry and much prefer the beef.

                                                              2. lamoufette RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 10, 2007 06:37 AM

                                                                Thank you for posting the NY times article. Really their descision came down to money - the city is the one who will pay for the health care of its citizens made ill by these restaurants. The city is trying to help reduce the obesity epidemic in an effort to save the precious city resources it will have to spend providing insulin and syringes to uninsured diabetics. It's not about whether it is 'cool' with us or not. The city has a job to do, and is trying to do it. http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/12/13/... If they raise a few citizens awareness, bravo!

                                                                1. m
                                                                  malibumike RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 10, 2007 07:54 AM

                                                                  I think in one way it might help, it could embarras someone that would order a 1900 calorie hamburger if the other people with them could see what a hog they are!

                                                                  1. MeffaBabe RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 13, 2007 11:10 AM

                                                                    I am one who really tries to watch what I eat. I have also gone back to my weight watchers program so imagine my surprise when I found the total calories/fats for those wonderful Panera Sandwiches that I love to eat... I usually can only eat 1/2 of sandwich and I never get the bacon or cheeses that come in most of them. That wonderful Crispini they now make is to die for (I must confess, I CAN eat the entire tomato & Basil crispini)... So imagine my horror when I looked up their calories/fats for the sandwiches I most adore! Some are over 500 calories each with HUGE amounts of fats... Here I thought they were the "healthiest" of the fast food places- no wonder they are so delicious. I really have to stop and think twice about eating there.
                                                                    I guess I have to say I would really like places to list calories/fat so I then know if it is healthy or not.
                                                                    Just as an aside... recently while waiting for a family member at a very large world renowned hospital in Boston I wandered to the cafe. They had all the specials for the day wrapped and prepared with little cards telling the nutritional values and calories/fat content of each. I was flabergasted to see they were serving things with over 50 grams of fat! I guess they figure if their staff/employees eat there regularly they are at least already at the hospital so no transportation for the bypass is necessary!

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: MeffaBabe
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                                                                      p.j. RE: MeffaBabe Mar 13, 2007 12:13 PM

                                                                      MeffaBabe,
                                                                      Two thoughts. I live in the home of Panera a/k/a St.Louis Bread Co. My lunch, which I try to keep under 5 pts. is one of the low-fat Panera soups with a whole-grain roll. It usually keeps me going through most of the afternoon. Then I eat a piece of seasonal fruit that I bring to work. The sandwiches are made to order. The smoked turkey on nine grain, with mustard (hold the mayo!!!!) is pretty decent. I do miss the pile of sprouts that they used to put on all their sandwiches.
                                                                      I haven't tried a Crispani: way too caloric, as are the Panini sandwiches.
                                                                      I join you in being appalled by the caloric and fat in most of their foods--and the salt in the soups.
                                                                      p.j.

                                                                      1. re: MeffaBabe
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                                                                        Basiorana RE: MeffaBabe Feb 7, 2011 03:17 PM

                                                                        The other thing to remember is that if you need 2000 calories a day, your lunch can easily be 500-600 calories. I eat a light breakfast of about 300 calories, lunch of about 600, a snack of 200, and dinner usually pushes 900, though lunch and dinner can be reversed. So yes, many sandwiches can be 500+ calories, but unless you started your day with a Denny's Grand Slam and intend to end it with a huge bowl of fettucini alfredo, you're probably okay.

                                                                        I get a You Pick Two with a mediterranean vegetable sandwich and a chicken asian salad, and an apple. Only 580 calories-- easily a safe lunch-- and delicious.

                                                                      2. trishyb RE: Sacto_Damkier Aug 11, 2008 04:58 PM

                                                                        As the new law is targeting corporate chains, namely fast food, I think it will do very little to promote eating healthier and lighter in terms of calories. People who are conscious of what food goes into their bodies are not the usual frequenters of these establishments. Furthermore, many of the people frequenting these fast food chains simply aren't aware of how many calories are too much, too little, nutritionally devoid, etc. It's been shown in numerous studies, that despite having calorie counts available, people underestimate how much they actually eat time and time again. And then there is the simple issue of lack of care about how many calories are in a particular meal... the emphasis of many consumers is convenience, taste, and value. These caloric fast food meals fulfill these expectations for their purchasers.

                                                                        It certainly is not a bad thing to list the calories, but it's doubtful that it will work to truly reduce obesity. The city would have to adopt a massive nutritional education program, mandate exercise, give vouchers for fresh produce and proteins, etc. - steps way beyond its reach. People are choosing to eat themselves into disease, disability, and death. One can't avoid hearing about the obesity epidemic and all the health risks associated with extra weight, yet people continue to get bigger and unhealthier. It seems as if many people still live with "that won't happen to me" attitude, or just bury their heads deeper in the sand.

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                                                                          pushback RE: Sacto_Damkier Jun 16, 2010 12:38 PM

                                                                          On the surface, this idea seems to be useful; however, why the need to legislate? In an interview on CP24 MPP France Gelinas admitted that this is just the first step in the "war on obesity". Next she hopes that "sin" taxes will be introduced on high calorie items and the health insurance rates will be increased for those who are overweight. Just another hand in the publics purse????
                                                                          If the government really wants to help people with their weight issues, they will lower or cut taxes on all whole grains, fruits, vegetables, chicken and fish in the grocery stores. Throughout history societies have gone through weight changes...remember the Ruben period? The pendulum will begin to swing the other way when parents, insurance companies and governments allow children to play again. Currently in Ontario, children are not permitted to run on the playgrounds at school, nor are they permitted to slide on ice, slide down hills, play tag...etc etc etc. People have become so afraid of children getting hurt, that they have essentially wiped out their ability to get any physical exercise at recess. Extracurricular activities have virtually been wiped out by litigious parents, causing the insurance rates to go through the roof and convince teachers they're not worth the personal risk. The sad result is that there is an epidemic of diabetes and heart disease beginning in children as young as nine. This is the first generation of children that are expected to die at a younger age than their parents. Because, over protective parents and insurance companies have created a culture of fear and "safety", our kids can't move. It is not helpful for insurance companies and people like MPP Gelinas to create discrimination, resentment and anger toward the overweight in Canada. Education NOT Legislation!!!!!

                                                                          1. BobB RE: Sacto_Damkier Jun 16, 2010 02:09 PM

                                                                            I agree that for most people it will make no difference whatsoever - they're going to eat what they want to eat, regardless. But for those who are already watching caloric intake (for example, Meffababe, above), it can be useful in pointing out "hidden" calories that they might otherwise have overlooked.

                                                                            Is that sufficient societal impact to justify the time and effort involved in the creation - and enforcement! - of this type of legislation? In my opinion, absolutely not. But hey - welcome to America!

                                                                            Edit: After I wrote that, I realized that this was a years-old thread that just got revived. But hey, I stand by my comments regardless.

                                                                            1. j
                                                                              jamieeats RE: Sacto_Damkier Jan 30, 2011 12:58 PM

                                                                              i don't think the calories need to necessarily be on the dine-in menu, but they definitely should be listed on the website. i would always rather know or at least have the information available should i want to know.

                                                                              1. thew RE: Sacto_Damkier Jan 30, 2011 01:35 PM

                                                                                i know this is an old thread but:

                                                                                i do not see this as nannying. nannying would be the waiter telling you that you couldnt order that app with that entree as they add up to too many calories. giving people information is not the same as forcing behaviors on them.

                                                                                11 Replies
                                                                                1. re: thew
                                                                                  im_nomad RE: thew Jan 30, 2011 02:22 PM

                                                                                  I don't know, i like the "happy medium" approach some menus have... such as having a section of lighter choices etc, or as others have mentioned, having it available upon request. It might not be nannying but it's sucking the fun out of just about everything to have this on just about everything, particularly items that anyone with a grain of sense should know is not a low calorie item. I mean, I even got a little bag of after eight mints in a xmas box and when I looked at it yesterday, it was not only complete with calorie counts, but one of those "eating a balanced diet is blah blah blah" blurbs on the package.

                                                                                  Besides, how would places with dynamic menus ever do this?

                                                                                  1. re: im_nomad
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                                                                                    mpjmph RE: im_nomad Jan 30, 2011 02:41 PM

                                                                                    For dynamic menus - there are free websites that will calculate nutrition information for a recipe based on the ingredients you enter. There are also numerous software applications that do the same. If it doesn't already exists, I expect an entrepreneurial developer will produce menu design program that includes nutrition calculations along with formatting and graphic tools. Even restaurants with menus that change every day either print the menu everyday or post the menu somewhere - all they have to do is add the calorie count.

                                                                                    All that said, I don't think calorie counts on menus actually change behavior. Behavior change takes time, and it almost always take multiple cues and incentives to get there. I do think full nutrition information should be available on request at the restaurant, and online if the chain has a website.

                                                                                  2. re: thew
                                                                                    hotoynoodle RE: thew Jan 30, 2011 05:42 PM

                                                                                    i work for a company that has many locations, some in states that require nutritional info on the menu. when the ceo was asked by an international investor what effect this has had on diners' orders? he replied they order fewer potatoes, but more desserts, lol. a piece of carrot cake has WAAAY more calories than a baked potato does, ya know? people eating out are there to indulge, not to have dean ornish nagging at them.

                                                                                    1. re: thew
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                                                                                      gadfly RE: thew Feb 3, 2011 11:07 AM

                                                                                      No way man. Having information is, like, so oppressive. That's like, what Big Brother was always doing. Telling people stuff.

                                                                                      Knowing things totally takes all the fun out of life.

                                                                                      1. re: gadfly
                                                                                        chowser RE: gadfly Feb 3, 2011 11:22 AM

                                                                                        Yeah, we LIKE being fat, dumb and ignorant! Pass me my blinders, please.;-) What I love is the people who look at the info and then order the worst thing for them as revenge--yeah, that'll hurt...um, only them.

                                                                                        1. re: chowser
                                                                                          im_nomad RE: chowser Feb 3, 2011 11:57 AM

                                                                                          right....because without calorie counts jumping off a menu, no one would every have the common sense to order something that might be good for them...

                                                                                          1. re: im_nomad
                                                                                            chowser RE: im_nomad Feb 3, 2011 12:48 PM

                                                                                            With 60% of Americans being overweight/obese, they apparently don't. I'm in the fitness industry and pretty savvy about what's in different foods but I've been thrown off guard about some calorie counts. If you never have, good for you but it's helpful for me. I was at an airport where a guy asked the counter person if the chicken in a sandwich was fried. The guy had health restrictions and couldn't eat high fat food. The guy behind the counter said it wasn't because, he just popped it in the convection oven. I told him it's typically a deep fried dish and they probably get it fried and then frozen. The guy thanked me and said it would have been a tough flight if he had eaten the sandwich. Knowledge, IMO, is never a bad thing.

                                                                                            1. re: im_nomad
                                                                                              thew RE: im_nomad Feb 3, 2011 02:03 PM

                                                                                              it's about ignorance - which can be fixed, not about a lack of common sense which may well be innate

                                                                                              1. re: im_nomad
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                                                                                                piccola RE: im_nomad Feb 3, 2011 05:07 PM

                                                                                                Some aren't so obvious, especially because restaurants prepare things much differently than home cooks. I mean, an 800-calorie salad is pretty obscene, and you might not think that steamed veggies are drenched in butter if the menu doesn't explicitly say so.

                                                                                                1. re: piccola
                                                                                                  chowser RE: piccola Feb 3, 2011 05:16 PM

                                                                                                  I was surprised, about 30 years ago when I left home that refried beans had as many calories/as much fat as they do. I had no idea how they were made. And, dried ramen noodles in a package? No idea they were deep fried before they were packaged. Who would know, using common sense, that they'd deep fry soup noodles? I would think a grilled cheese sandwich would have fewer calories than a cheeseburger (just take out the meat, right?) but it had almost twice as many in a chain restaurant. Hidden fats are everywhere in commercial restaurants.

                                                                                                  1. re: chowser
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                                                                                                    piccola RE: chowser Feb 4, 2011 02:45 AM

                                                                                                    Yeah, and the changes are different in high-end vs fast-food places. The former tend to use a lot of butter/oil for flavour without necessarily frying things, making it harder to spot. The latter fry most things and add tonnes of sugar in places where you wouldn't know to look for it (ie, sauces, soups).

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                                                                                          beevod RE: Sacto_Damkier Jan 31, 2011 06:22 AM

                                                                                          It's okay, unless you mistake the calorie count for the price.

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                                                                                            NicoleFriedman RE: Sacto_Damkier Jan 31, 2011 06:30 AM

                                                                                            I generally have a good sense about nutrition and calories. However, I have been shocked at the calorie count of Cheesecake Factory. Quite frankly I don't even know where they manage to sneak in extra calories! Since the law only applies to chain restaurants, I have no problem with it.

                                                                                            1. junescook RE: Sacto_Damkier Jan 31, 2011 07:01 AM

                                                                                              As someone who's battled weight all my life, I think it's an excellent idea. Otherwise, how would you know, e.g., that TGI Friday's Santa Fe Chopped Salad is 1,800 calories, while their Cobb Salad is only 361.

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                                                                                                uwsister RE: Sacto_Damkier Feb 2, 2011 02:36 PM

                                                                                                I think it's a great idea. IMO chains should be mandated to post calories like they already do in NYC. I wouldn't want to see it @ fine dining places though. I gotta say I don't understand how having calories posted ruins your meal? When I sit down and eat a pint of ice cream in one sitting (happens at least once a month) I know I'm eating about 1200kcal, but it doesn't make me enjoy it any less.

                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: uwsister
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                                                                                                  piccola RE: uwsister Feb 2, 2011 03:45 PM

                                                                                                  I wouldn't mind seeing it at fine dining restaurants, but maybe not straight on the menu since I know it ruins the mood for a lot of people. But on a separate sheet for those who want it? I'd take that.

                                                                                                  1. re: piccola
                                                                                                    Karl S RE: piccola Feb 4, 2011 05:04 AM

                                                                                                    The problem for non chains is that they tend to be more improvisational to reduce waste, so ingredients will tend to vary more. Portioning is also not necessarily as strictly observed as in chains.

                                                                                                    Understand that even the calorie counts one sees for the most basic things are *averages* and variation can be more than you think. Under the best of circumstances, it's a very rough approximation, and often not very repeatable. Once you move away from the best of circumstances, you really can't rely on the information the way you'd like. Eating out is treacherous that way.

                                                                                                    The best approach is to choose foods that you can readily deconstruct and identify portion size. Thus, a steak (asking for no fat to be added after cooking - a very very important thing if you are really counting calories, because butter and/or oil is typically added in many places, which is why steaks in restaurants tend to taste so much better than home) and a baked potato is going to be easier to portion out than pasta with fish or chicken in sauce (of any kind).

                                                                                                    Basically, if it tastes really good, there's probably some extra fat you don't realize....

                                                                                                    One thing: stay away from South and East Asian buffets, which are swimming in a lot more oil than you realize. A lot more. A lot more.

                                                                                                    By the same token, chains with manaical control over ingredients and portion sizing can be a calorie counter's friend. Thus, you may find people who need to count calories are actually more likely to end up in a fast food joint (eating a hamburger instead of a quarter pounder) than in a fine dining restaurant. But they will be judged more harshly by those who judge others that way (which our culture deeply approves of).

                                                                                                    1. re: Karl S
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                                                                                                      Braniff RE: Karl S Feb 4, 2011 06:08 AM

                                                                                                      I agree. Those who criticize such restaurant chains as McDonald's and Burger King should be criticizing the independent restaurants (and the chains which provide little or no nutritional information at all) along with the food stands at such events as carnivals and fairs.

                                                                                                      1. re: Braniff
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                                                                                                        nkeane RE: Braniff Feb 4, 2011 09:47 PM

                                                                                                        I criticize chains for producing crap food in a crap environment. I could give a damn about the calorie counts....

                                                                                                        let's be really honest for a second. This discussion seems to have, at it's core, the idea that restaurants have some secret method of cramming calories into dishes without anyone noticing. There are only 3 ways to add calories...add fats(9cal./gram) add protein(2cal./gram), or add carbs(4cal./gram)....regardless of which path is taken, the only similarity is the GRAMS part. Weight. Portion size. Stop eating dishes served in 5 gallon buckets and the concern over a pat of butter on top of your steak becomes useless.

                                                                                                        1. re: nkeane
                                                                                                          Karl S RE: nkeane Feb 5, 2011 04:26 AM

                                                                                                          It's easiest to add liquid fats- they don't take up as much volume per caloric unit, and are hard to detect except by mouthfeel and deliciousness. Most people, for example, think that glistening steak they are served is glistening with juices, when it's usually a fat in liquid form. That's not "hidden" but it's easily overlooked by the assumptions people bring to the table. Ditto all those glistening items in the Indian or Chinese buffet trays....

                                                                                                          1. re: nkeane
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                                                                                                            piccola RE: nkeane Feb 5, 2011 04:46 AM

                                                                                                            There's no question that restaurants produce higher quality food, but it's typically very rich even in small portions. And yes, restaurants do add butter and oil very liberally, more than the average patron might expect. They do it for flavour, but the result is still a dish that's richer than you thought it was.

                                                                                                            1. re: piccola
                                                                                                              Karl S RE: piccola Feb 5, 2011 08:49 AM

                                                                                                              I think of an Ina Garten episode that aired this week, replicating the five-cheese penne dish from Al Forno in Providence:

                                                                                                              http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

                                                                                                              That's for only six small servings. Think about it. That's the kind of thing people would eat 3x the size of for an entree.

                                                                                                        2. re: Karl S
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                                                                                                          piccola RE: Karl S Feb 4, 2011 07:15 PM

                                                                                                          Totally. But I feel like a rough idea -- based on the total recipe divided by the number of portions it makes -- would help, even if they had to put a disclaimer on the menu that says numbers are approximate.

                                                                                                          My issue with fast food joints and chains is that many still don't have genuinely healthy items (as opposed to healthy-seeming items) and fewer have truly vegetarian items (since most are cooked on the same surfaces at meat).

                                                                                                          All in all, this is why I mostly cook at home.

                                                                                                        3. re: piccola
                                                                                                          mcf RE: piccola Mar 5, 2011 01:42 PM

                                                                                                          I had my first experience of it on Thurs, when MIL and I had lunch at Legal Seafoods, the only chain I go to. There were very inconspicuous calorie counts for each dessert (may have been on the lunch menu, too, but I don't recall) and she wanted to share one (I eat very low carb). The chocolate mousse parfait came in hundreds of calories less than the others and she enjoyed it immensely, so no harm, no foul. I wish everyone supplied it.

                                                                                                          I wouldn't use the info to eat something I didn't like, and I know I can deduct hundreds if not a thousand calories from others because I order them without pasta, rice, potato sides, etc... but it's good to have a baseline.

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                                                                                                        AdamD RE: Sacto_Damkier Feb 3, 2011 11:11 AM

                                                                                                        Im in NY and its great. It definitely impacts my choices when I end up at chains, just like at the supermarket.

                                                                                                        But there is a fine line, not sure I want the caloric info when I hit the BBQ joint or that upscale restaurant.

                                                                                                        I think the way it is now, which I believe, is based upon the number of locations, is great.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: AdamD
                                                                                                          mcf RE: AdamD Mar 5, 2011 01:44 PM

                                                                                                          I hear ya. At bbq, I order stuff dry, I hate sticky sweet sauces, especially. Upscale places I just don't eat bread or starch sides, and will share a dessert if I know they excel at them, but usually just skip it.

                                                                                                        2. mtngirlnv RE: Sacto_Damkier Feb 7, 2011 02:44 PM

                                                                                                          It's helping me and the hubby. I'm more aware of what ingredients mean, while he wasn't always paying attention. I've helped him understand what goes into fast food, and he doesn't eat it as much, but if he's pressed for time, he's not going to McD's.

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                                                                                                            Basiorana RE: Sacto_Damkier Feb 7, 2011 03:10 PM

                                                                                                            When my company put calories on their boards, the first thing they did was figure out every way to cut down the calories in the worst offenders, because people won't buy a sandwich that's 1000 calories. So ultimately while I hope fine dining establishments are never asked to do this, I have no problem with chains doing it as it provides a powerful incentive to change recipes to be healthier and lower-calorie. However, I doubt this would work at McDonald's or Burger King-- Panera has a higher expectation of healthy food, even if you're getting the Italian Combo (was 1050, but they reduced it to about 980 or something). They're still retooling things to lower calories, especially the sauces. Our Ancho Chipotle sauce added almost 300 calories to the chipotle chicken sandwich until they switched to a different one!

                                                                                                            So while consumers may be minimally affected, it is ultimately for the best as it is a way to encourage stores to make healthier meals without forcing them to.

                                                                                                            1. m
                                                                                                              MichelleRenee RE: Sacto_Damkier Mar 4, 2011 02:40 PM

                                                                                                              I love this idea, and I really would love to see it everywhere. Obesity, among many other food-related diseases, is a huge problem here in the U.S. And it's not just the unhealthy individual it affects, but they impact the entire economy and health-care system.

                                                                                                              I don't see any reason why people can't have such important information if they want it. Because I try to eat healthy, I never eat garlic bread or breadsticks at restaurants, but even I wouldn't have guessed that one breadstick at Friday's was 1200 calories! We all want to allow ourselves to splurge once in a while, but I feel like I can splurge with a clear-conscience if I know what it is I'm splurging on. I don't feel the need to indulge myself with 3,000 calorie meal.

                                                                                                              And I really like the way this gets restaurants to prepare foods more responsibly. If they're cutting down calories to make their food more appealing, then it's obvious that people WANT healthier options. Now they can actually get healthier meals instead of being tricked into thinking they're eating healthy. Some things that are common knowledge to some folks, just aren't to others, and instead of suffering for it, being provided the information they need is a great way to get people to make better choices, and provide better options.

                                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: MichelleRenee
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                                                                                                                piccola RE: MichelleRenee Mar 4, 2011 06:47 PM

                                                                                                                It can't be one breadstick -- surely it's one order?? Because that is ridiculous.

                                                                                                                1. re: piccola
                                                                                                                  rockandroller1 RE: piccola Mar 5, 2011 12:13 PM

                                                                                                                  I saw 140-240 for one breadstick on various websites, but since Friday's doesn't list it, hard to be sure. But yeah, I doubt it's 1200 for one breadstick, that's probably one order.

                                                                                                                  1. re: rockandroller1
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                                                                                                                    piccola RE: rockandroller1 Mar 5, 2011 04:33 PM

                                                                                                                    So, roughly a loaf of butter-soaked bread. That makes sense.

                                                                                                                    1. re: piccola
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                                                                                                                      MichelleRenee RE: piccola Mar 7, 2011 07:32 AM

                                                                                                                      I have no way of knowing for sure, either. I just know that when I was working there many years ago, on my first day I was advised never to eat the breadsticks because they have 1,200 calories PER breadstick.... butter-soaked bread. Pretty much.

                                                                                                                      1. re: MichelleRenee
                                                                                                                        chowser RE: MichelleRenee Mar 7, 2011 08:17 AM

                                                                                                                        That would be about 3/4 cup of butter per stick? That seems a stretch.

                                                                                                                        I've never had them but this says 101 for a garlic breadstick. That seems more in line with breadsticks.

                                                                                                                        http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calo...

                                                                                                                        1. re: chowser
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                                                                                                                          MichelleRenee RE: chowser Mar 7, 2011 08:28 AM

                                                                                                                          They were also deep-fried instead of baked, so they were literally drenched in fat. This was about 8 years ago, though. I really have no way of knowing how many calories they were back then. All I know is what we were told at the time. The recipe could have been re-tooled since then. Idk

                                                                                                                          1. re: MichelleRenee
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                                                                                                                            piccola RE: MichelleRenee Mar 7, 2011 04:31 PM

                                                                                                                            Wow. That's basically a giant donut.

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