Popular restaurants, sans calorie listings
One way restaurants could avoid state and federal legislators' requiring them to post nutrition information on menus would be to go ahead and post the numbers on their own.
Many restaurants already do make calorie counts, fat and sodium contents and other key nutrition facts readily available to customers, if not on menus then at least on brochures, in-store kiosks or on Web sites.
But some restaurants still don't. I was surprised to learn, when writing this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column about the new Cook This, Not That! book, that several huge chains don't post nutrition data for all the items on their menus.
These chains include Applebee's, California Pizza Kitchen, Carrabba's, Cheesecake Factory, Hooters, IHOP and T.G.I. Friday's. The book includes Friendly's on the list, too, but when I checked that chain's Web site, it was easy to find the nutrition facts. (It's sometimes been the case that restaurants called out by the Eat This, Not That! books make efforts to mend their ways after seeing what the books say about them.)
By way of promoting some better-for-you menu items, IHOP shares nutrition data for just a handful of foods. And Applebee's has a new crop of 550-calories-or-under meals; that calorie estimation is all the data you get, though.
The lack of information makes you wonder what these folks are hiding. Oh, wait: What they're likely hiding is an ungodly amount of fat, sodium and calories. Maybe they worry that revealing those amounts will hurt business.
Even so, it seems to me that if places like KFC, McDonald's and Outback (which, as a sit-down restaurant, is in the same league with the restaurants listed in Cook This, Not That!) can make their nutrition facts known, anybody ought to be able to do so.
This is an issue I wish the free market could sort out. Rather than impose legislation, what if we consumers opted only to shop and dine at places where nutrition data is handy? And what if we wrote to restaurants we might otherwise enjoy, letting the owners know that we won't be buying their food till they tell us what's in it?
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