It’s the weekend! Everyone who’s planning on ending up in a restaurant (minus the tray and apron), raise your hands. To everyone else: what kind of American are you? The economy is failing and only your reckless spending habits can save it! Move, people!! I am a Mystery Shopper and thus will be spending tonight at a “family friendly eatery” to which I’m not allowed to bring my children.
This past weekend I went out to dinner with some girlfriends to The Cheesecake Factory. When one asked – rhetorically, in hindsight – how many calories her decadent slice of cheesecake had, I irritated everyone by piping up with the answer. How did I know this? Because I had read the menu (all 35+ pages of it – it should be called The Cheesecake Novel) online before coming, of course. The Cheesecake Factory is notorious in healthy eating circles for refusing to divulge their nutritional information but thanks to the New York law, they’ve been outed. And now we all know why they were so reticent. That place is a calorie bomb. And yet, people don’t go there for the purpose of eating healthy. It’s supposed to be a splurge right?
We have discussed before the many ways that restaurants sabotage our food. There’s the added butter and oil to make steamed veggies glisten like Jay Manuel’s overly waxed chest. There’s the inadvertent (or not) regular cokes subbed for diet. And who can forget the portion sizes overloading our plates despite lovely and informative flash presentations on portion control on every network’s morning show plus twice on Oprah?
Before we had just the admission of a few brave workers in the food service industry and our (queasy) guts to go on. Now we have evidence. Two new studies (okay, surveys) are out to tell us exactly how restaurants get us coming and going, hoping that one day we will all be stuck like Winnie the Pooh – the first noted binge eater in children’s literature – in Rabbit’s hole after consuming an entire winter’s worth of honey. Then we will have no choice but to eat their fat and sugar laden fare.
Restaurant Tactic Number 1: Hide the Evidence
Eat This, Not That called out many popular restaurants a year ago for food atrocities against mankind. For example, every omelette on IHOP’s menu comes in at over 1,000 calories and 55 grams of fat. Most restaurants surveyed a year ago were smarter than white flour-addled IHOP and refused to disclose their nutritional information. Enter New York’s new law requiring truth in calorie labeling.
This year Eat This, Not That is following up with the most egregious sinners
to see who was caught red handed by the new laws. The answer: everyone. My fave “progress” report is: “Arby’s has stopped advertising “all-natural” chicken. The assistant manager at the Emmaus, Pennsylvania, location told our reporter that he doesn’t think the chicken is all-natural anymore. We wonder if it ever was.”
Restaurant Tactic #2: Lie To Your Face
Now that other cities are considering following in New York’s footsteps, it is getting harder for companies to avoid listing their ingredients and nutritional information. And with the advent of a little wonder called The Internet, they can’t claim distribution overhead or cost prohibitions for preventing them from ‘fessing up.
So they lie. They print one thing on their menu, say, Macaroni Grill’s “Skinny Chicken” listed at 6 g of fat and less than 500 calories. But when an independent lab tested the maligned chicken, it topped out at 49 grams of fat and 1,022 calories! And it doesn’t even taste good!! Seriously, I’ve ordered that. It’s icky. For that kind of calorie wattage I could have just gotten what I really wanted, a DQ Nerds Blizzard (40 g of fat and 900 calories for a medium) and gone home happy.
Restaurant Tactic #3: Make Bad Comparisons
It’s seems to be the industry standard to proudly proclaim, “At least we’re not McDonalds!!” But in fact sit-down restaurants do way more caloric damage than the Golden Arches and its kin:
[a] menu analysis of 24 national chains revealed that the average entree at a sit-down restaurant contains 867 calories, compared with 522 calories in the average fast-food entree. And that’s before appetizers, sides, or desserts-selections that can easily double your total calorie intake.
I cook three meals a day, usually from scratch, 6.5 days a week. Plus snacks. By golly, I deserve to eat one meal cooked, served and cleaned up by someone other than myself! And I’d like to do it without undoing all the clean eating I’ve been sort-of good about all week.
What do you do when you go out to eat? Do you read the nutritional information and plan out your meal beforehand? Or do you figure it’s one meal and just eat what you want? Would you like to have the nutritional info posted on every menu like in New York? Have I convinced you that you never ever want to eat out with me yet??