Wednesday, December 19, 2007


More on portion sizes

Here’s something else to go along with my comments about insane portion sizes. It’s an item in Men’s Health magazine, reported here at MSNBC, about how forthcoming — or not — some restaurants are about their product, with respect to health and nutrition:

It seems simple: a law that requires nothing more than having restaurants tell us what we’re putting in our mouths. Yet the California Restaurant Association, which represents all of the state’s largest chain restaurants, called the bill a “feel-good Band-Aid” and claimed it ignored the “true issues” behind obesity.

We disagree. One of the true issues behind obesity is the fact that many chains obfuscate the fat and calorie counts of their menu items, and fight any attempt to shed light on what, exactly, is going on between their buns and inside their taco shells.

And I have some comments about the article....

(Hey, in case you were wondering, an order of Outback’s Aussie Cheese Fries has 2,900 calories, and its Ayers Rock Strip has 60 grams of fat.)
Not being an Outback afficionado, I don’t know how many people are meant to share one order of those cheese fries, but... well, if it’s one, I should point out that that’s an adult man’s entire calorie intake for a day. Have it with a cup of coffee. Black. And then think about a balanced meal for tomorrow.

Applebee’s doesn’t want you to know that many of its “low-fat” items have more than 500 calories.
Well, to be fair here, this is a much more general issue: “low fat” does not translate to “low calorie”, and a fat calorie is no different from a protein calorie or a carbohydrate calorie. You can eat a pound of plain, steamed potatoes, and you’ll have had essentially no fat (about half a gram), but around 360 calories.

Of course, it’s true that the food manufacturers and sellers would rather not point that out to you. Labels that tout “Low fat!” and “Low in carbohydrates!” sell product, by making folks think the food is better for them — whether or not it is.

IHOP doesn’t want you to know that its Omelette Feast has 1,335 calories and 35 grams of saturated fat.
Now, here I have to go with the idea that people have to be responsible for themselves. I’m all for labelling and all that, yes. But let’s be honest: does someone really have to tell you that a three-egg omelet, three pancakes, bacon, and hash browns amounts to a huge, calorie-filled, fat-laden meal with loads of cholesterol?

In Italy, a standard pasta serving means 4 ounces of noodles with a few tablespoons of sauce. At Maggiano’s, a large order of pasta translates into 2 pounds of noodles piled high on a hubcap-size dinner plate.
Ah, yes, 2 pounds of pasta is a lot, yowza! Comparison with a “standard” pasta serving in Italy is flawed, though, because there the pasta is one small course in a full meal, between the antipasto and the main course, while here it’s meant to be the main course. And they do say that “you’ll have plenty to share or take home,” so they aren’t expecting one person to eat all that.

Still, it’s clear that these portion sizes do prompt us to eat too much. Maybe we do take some home... but we probably eat more than we ought to before we stop and have it packed to take. If we were served what we might reasonably be expected to eat, we’d clearly eat less.

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