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Calorie listings at chains

What does everyone think about the calorie "revelations" on menus at places like Pizzaria Uno, Burger King, Chilis, etc.? I suppose there's a case to be made about being informed, but the first time I saw them I lost my appetite and wanted to leave and never come back. Had I really been consuming that MANNNNNY every time I ate out? Ugh.

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  1. How many calories do you consume when you eat in?

    1. What do I think? Couldn't care less.

      I know what, and what is not, a healthy diet that suits me and eat accordingly through the week - albeit rarely sticking to what I know to be a healthy diet. Which is why I am a short, fat middle aged man, instead of being a short, middle aged man.

      1. I love them. I also understand they are averages - their accuracy is correlated to how maniacally a chain polices portioning of all ingredients (something that is typically not as easy to do for non-chain operations).

        1. Are people really that surprised? At many chains, the portions are huge, many things are fried and/or covered in cheese and one dessert can feed four people.

          1. whenever i eat at a place like that, i get so full part way through the meal that i couldn't possibly finish the rest of the dish...therefore it's no surprise that it's highly caloric! if i do end up eating there (i'm not going to sacrifice time with friends), i just order one dish, and try to stick to fish, especially something like grilled shrimp, or one of the highlighted healthy options. it helps to look up the info in advance, so then you can at least choose the least offensive option and know when to stop if your stomach isn't already telling you!

            1. It's probably a good thing, if a bit of a bummer. It made me change my order at Rubio's from a couple of fried fish tacos to grilled fish tacos. Of course I always knew grilled was healthier, but somehow seeing it posted...

              1. Honestly, it just doesn't matter to me. I eat at a chain about once every six months, so I order whatever suits.

                1. I must admit, I am baffled at some of the calorie listings, particularly for the non fast-food places. I mean, how do they fit an entire day's calories in a single plate of pasta or appetizer.

                  I think that's why the listings are a good idea. I know that a Big Mac meals is loaded in calories and bad for me, McDonalds often being held up as a gold standard of bad modern eating. People living in caves with their hands over their ears probably known that.

                  But for places like Chilis, my intuition about how many calories is in a dish and comparisons with what I would make at home break down. After all, it looks like real food - it's pasta and a salad, say, which is something I would make and eat at home as a healthy meal with a reasonable number of calories.

                  If you eat at a chain restaurant or fast food place once in a long while, it doesn't matter. But if you eat out once or twice a week, it can make quite a difference over time - a few thousand calories a week that you didn't realize you were eating.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                    I must admit, I am baffled at some of the calorie listings, particularly for the non fast-food places. I mean, how do they fit an entire day's calories in a single plate of pasta or appetizer.

                    [Look at the portions. People freak that the Chipotle Burrito wrap adds 300 or so calories to the meal, yet a slice of bread has 100 calories- I think its safe to say that the Chipotle wrap is 3 pieces of bread]

                    I think that's why the listings are a good idea. I know that a Big Mac meals is loaded in calories and bad for me, McDonalds often being held up as a gold standard of bad modern eating. People living in caves with their hands over their ears probably known that.

                    [Its not BAD for you. its simply calorie dense and high in fat. Its your choice to eat what you eat.]
                    But for places like Chilis, my intuition about how many calories is in a dish and comparisons with what I would make at home break down. After all, it looks like real food - it's pasta and a salad, say, which is something I would make and eat at home as a healthy meal with a reasonable number of calories.

                    [define reasonable!]

                    If you eat at a chain restaurant or fast food place once in a long while, it doesn't matter. But if you eat out once or twice a week, it can make quite a difference over time - a few thousand calories a week that you didn't realize you were eating.

                  2. I really appreciate the calorie listings. I recently read something to the effect that the calorie listings are not doing any good because the only people who pay attention to them are the people who don't "need" to because they are not overweight! Hey, there is a correlation between not being overweight and paying attention to the calorie content of your food! I end up eating at chains several times/year, usually because that's where my parents want to go, and the calorie listings are not the only thing that determines what I order, but they are definitely a factor.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Kathleen M

                      I completely agree Kathleen.

                      Studies show that:

                      50% of people do not care and are not going to be swayed in any meaningful way. They might make a 300 calorie less decision but will still eat 3 baskets of bread with butter.

                      45% of people (who need to make such decisions ie diabetic or other health concerns) already know that the Cheese fries with bacon and ranch probably have more calories then the Bruschetta.

                      5% of people who may benefit- will not carry anything over to the rest of the meal, or rest of what they eat that day.

                      People will order orange juice for their kids as it is "healthier" then Coke, yet the calories/sugar are the same and the nutrition is nothing additional of consequence.

                      Lets not forget, their is nutrition information on most of what you buy at the grocery store.

                    2. I think they're great - I use them as a tool to make the best decisions I can when eating out. I a lifetime weight watchers member - still keeping track of what I eat - so it's nice to be able to look up the nutrition information and plan how the meail will fit in to my week. I've discovered some real gems this way. For instance the Spinach Salad at Bertuccis is delicious, low in calories and filling. paired with a glass of wine and a bowl of soup, it's a perfectly reasonable dinner out.

                      1. At my favorite burger joint (the one with the pop up clown) when they started posting calorie counts, I was dismayed to see that the burger I usually order has 500 calories. So I started ordering the next one down, which is only 350. But I can't imagine where the extra 150 comes from in the bigger burger? Lettuce? Tomato? Wider circumference of beef and bun? Hmm.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: pdxgastro

                          Look at the grams of the fat, carbo, sugar and protein. In a burger fat is mainly from the meat, cheese and sauces. Protein is in the meat. Sugars are in the sauces and bun. Carbs minus sugar are in the bun. Fat has the most calories per gram.

                          Lettuce and tomato are minor sources of calories.

                          The change in protein roughly reflects the change in size of the patty.

                          http://www.jackinthebox.com/pdf/Nutri...

                          1. re: paulj

                            For example, the Jumbo Jack (500 calories) is 46% heavier in weight than the Hamburger Delux (340 calories) and has 11 more grams of fat (100 calories), 4 more grams of protein and 11 more grams of carbohydrate (together, 60 calories), presumably due to a bigger bun.

                        2. I rarely eat at chains but I think it's great to have it available. Food at chains are rarely worth the calories so I'd like to minimize the damage on food that doesn't taste good. Years ago, I was surprised to find that a a grilled cheese sandwich had far more calories than a cheeseburger (I can't remember which chain). I know my grilled cheese sandwiches at home don't!

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: chowser

                            Isn't the typical greasy spoon grilled cheese made by putting a slice of American between two pieces of white bread, and slathering both sides with melted grilling fat. That American probably has fewer calories than a good cheddar (since it is 'watered down' with whey), but the grilling fat must add a lot of calories.

                            Do you grease the outside of your sandwiches? When i was a kid we used butter (or margarine); now I leave it dry, or just spread a thin layer of mayo.

                            Frankly, I have no idea how many calories my homemade meals contain.
                            ----------------
                            I have a 1 lb package of 80/20 ground beef (from TJ) that lists 290 cal for 1/4 lb, 200 from fat. But when I fry it, some of the fat renders out. 2 slices of 9grain bread have 180 cal, a Tbl of mayo 100c. So together that is about 270+180+100=550, about the same as a Jumbo Jack.

                            1. re: paulj

                              I have no idea how it's done in a diner which probably explains why it surprises me. I use a small sliver of butter on each side when I make mine. It's probably the equivalent of a pat of butter total, at most. I have also never ordered grilled cheese out so have no idea how much grease there is in one, or actually even the type of cheese. It's one of those things that take no time at home to do. I think 500-600 calories for a regular burger seems about right, for a chain. I don't mean fast food but some place like Fridays or wherever. It just surprised me that a grilled cheese blew that away by a couple hundred calories.

                              I like the idea of the mayo instead of butter. That would make it easier, too. I also very rarely have grilled cheese for myself but do make it for my kids on occasion.

                              1. re: chowser

                                Commercially, it's likely many diner-type places use Whirl: http://www.todayswhirl.com/

                          2. I saw the calorie count on an IHOP menu a few months ago. I didn't want to order ANYTHING!!! It was a real buzz kill.

                            I also found it amusing that the difference in calories in the bacon lover's omelet and the spinach-tomato one was only 50 calories.

                            1. Out of curiousity, I went on BK's website and looked at nutritional info. Fascinating that even their salads have over 400 calories each, similar to a double cheeseburger. The double whopper, which DH tends to order when we're on the road (pretty much the only time we eat fast food) has 900 calories! And the tendercrisp chicken sandwich I really like has something like 750. So chances are next time we're traveling, we'll still stop for fast food once but might change what we order.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: mojoeater

                                Stick to the dollar menu at McDonald's and value menu at other chains, and you will eat a bit better than if you go to the regular menu.

                                1. re: mojoeater

                                  I haven't paid much attention to fast food salads, but I suspect most of the calories, especially from fat and sugar, are in the dressing, which is served separately. I recall one nutrition writer, David Katz, commending some diners for dipping their forks in the dressing with each bite, rather than pouring the whole thing on the salad. In other words, use enough dressing to get the flavor, but not to drown the healthy parts.

                                  Speaking of Dr Katz, has anyone seen or used NuVal scores in groceries?
                                  http://www.nuval.com/
                                  the idea is to rate products on a 0-100 scale, with 0 being things that are high in salt, sugar and fat, 100 being healthy (in the mainstream medical view). Fresh fruit tends to be high, canned low because of all the sugar in the canning syrup.

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    I shop at a store that lists the NuVal scores. Since I didn't know whether the low numbers were good or the high numbers were good, I haven't really been using them. I suspect that my fellow Nob Hill shoppers are in a similar conundrum. They haven't really got a good buzz going.....

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      The websites aren't too specific, but I know that even without dressing, the grilled chicken salads at McD's border on 300 calories. That's due to the fact that all their chicken comes precoated with some sort of liquid margerine seasoning.

                                  2. Would you like to see this calorie info on the menu itself?
                                    http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/resourc...

                                    3 Replies
                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        I was aware of the online listings, and presumably fliers, but haven't seen the numbers on the menus. Either the trend hasn't reached Washington yet, or I haven't eaten at the right places.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          I wouldn't expect it to. Kids don't think long term. Let's be honest--most adults don't think that way either. But, like a lot of information out there, eg hidden fees, it's good to make it available for those who care. It's like the cost on the menu at Starbucks. I'm sure most kids who frequent it don't look.

                                      2. I wonder how people would react if -- somehow, just somehow -- we could have calorie listings for all the things we eat at home.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          We do, though--it's on the nutrition label. It's not always easy but you can get a general idea. It's eating out that surprises me the most. It would be interesting if they could make a calorie monitor for everything we put in our bodies. But honestly, I think 90% of people wouldn't bat an eye. Or, they would for a short time but then let it go.

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            That was my point, chowser.

                                            Consumers have now known about calorie counts (at least a very rough estimate) for a very long time now when eating at home. Yet, that hasn't seem to stem the obesity problem.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              Maybe not but it has helped some people. And we have no way of knowing whether the obesity rate might be higher if the information hadn't been available. I know quite a few people (possibly because I'm in the fitness field) who use it.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                "Consumers have now known about calorie counts (at least a very rough estimate) for a very long time now when eating at home."

                                                Yes, but how many people look at them? Unless you are serious about losing weight, most people will not look at the back of a package to see what the calories are. Getting serious about losing weight, being informed and actively seeking out calorie counts and other nutritional information is what helped me go from an overweight 18 year old some 33 years ago to the could-stand-to-lose-a-few-pounds 51 year old I am today. I have successfully kept off most of the weight I lost 33 or so years ago by constantly monitoring what I eat. All the information in the world can be available to an obese person, but they must WANT to lose weight and COMMIT to it before anything can be done about it.

                                                1. re: ttoommyy

                                                  Awesome on the weight loss. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water... I counsel people on lifestyle changes and having the labels is a big help. I can't imagine how much harder it would be if there weren't any.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    Thanks chowser. Another thing that helped me was taking a basic nutrition class in college. It made me understand food better. It should be a required class in grammar and high scools both.

                                                  2. re: ttoommyy

                                                    That same rationale would apply to fast-food menu calorie listings, right?

                                            2. I don't eat in chains very often but I very much appreciate the listings when I do. I have no doubt the restaurant food that I prefer to eat is equally unhealthy but at least it makes me guilty enough to really THINK about what I order.

                                              1. I just found this and love it. I rarely eat at Panera's but do choose it over other fast food chains.

                                                http://www.paneranutrition.com/Nutrit...

                                                It shows you the calories in each item so you can custom order. What I'd love is if they had computers up front w/ the information as you order. You can place your own order and just pick it up. I'm Sheldon enough that I'd like to avoid social interaction when I can, especially when I'm special ordering.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  I can be a little Sheldon too :) But I like computer-based (typically online) ordering as well because I feel like there's a little less room for error. Sure they can still goof while assembling the order but at least I know my order started out correct! Special orders, even getting salad instead of fries, are always a little more prone to human error, I find. There was a crepe place where I gave up on requesting their whole wheat or buckwheat versions because they almost always brought me the default regular crepe no matter what I ordered.

                                                  1. re: julesrules

                                                    Yes, a big part of it with special orders is getting the message across, especially when a place is noisy, or you have to talk over a barrier (I'm short and sometimes don't clear it). It's almost like a game of operator.