Before I get in to today’s discussion, I’d like to thank Marina over at A Dancer’s Live-It for so kindly having me on her “Warrior Woman Series” yesterday. I’m honored to have been featured alongside so many women who I, myself, look up to with admiration. Marina is doing such a wonderful thing with this series by putting real stories out there. I encourage you to check it out each Wednesday.
As for today, thank you to Amanda for letting me do some Thinking Out Loud.
Do you think restaurant menus should include calorie counts!?!
While I was in Scotland this summer, my family stopped into a random pub/freehouse for dinner one night. I sat down to the (masssivvee) menu and what do I immediately see? Calorie counts. For every. single. thing. on the menu. Right after each title, there were all these numbers. Shooting away at me like darts.
I tried to ignore them. I tried to cover them up with one hand so I could still read the meal titles. But there was seriously no way of not seeing them. I felt like I was in a dim room with these jolting, blaring lights shooting at me. I couldn’t keep my eyes on the page for more than a moment without flinching and having to physically turn away. I ended up moving over to my Dad – feeling like a 10 year old – sat down beside him looking straight forward and said, “can you just read me out some things?” It was just the most distracting, obnoxious thing I’d seen in a long time.
Now, I’m aware that including calorie counts in restaurants is becoming more and more a norm, especially in fast food restaurants. Places like McDonalds and Subway, for instance, have the calories of each item easily accessable – sometimes on a side panel of their own somewhere else in the restaurant. But – atleast in the ones I’ve been in – they don’t have them right up on the menu boards beside each picture of each item. I’ve been starting to see this happen more now, too.
That kills me.
Take Panera Bread, for example. I love Panera Bread’s food but I seriously can’t go in there because I hate having numbers stare at me as I try to decide what to eat. Numbers are not ingredients, people.
Now. Let’s get the elephant out of the room here.
I, most probably, have a unique and heightened opinion in this than many people because of my history with disordered eating and calorie restriction. I come from a history of being hyper aware of calories and trying to have the smallest numbers possible. So when someone like me sees these numbers, the awful lure comes straight out from its grave and tries to get you to return to those urges to choose the lowest possible number. No matter how long you feel like you’ve been “recovered,” those numbers blaring at you are very, very hard to ignore. I’m not pretending to ignore this fact.
But my question is, how does seeing these numbers affect anyone else?
I mean, the rest of my family was able to keep looking at their own menus and still seemed to order what they felt like eating. So I guess it was just me…
But I’m truly curious. If someone were to go in thinking they really wanted a burger, and then the menu tells them its 1000+ calories – far more than even they expected – would this sway their decision? What if they really just wanted a damn burger? Do “normal eaters” even see these numbers up on the Panera menu board? Do these numbers mean absolutely nothing to them?
But here’s the real debate. I am a full believer that a calorie is not just a calorie and that calories are not made equal. For instance, if a restaurant has this awesome whole grain sandwich with avocado and good cheese and hummus – all super healthy, whole food ingredients – and the calorie content was suprsingly higher than one might have expected, could this sway someones’ decision? This super good for you, nutritious sandwich could have the same calorie count as the big ass cinnamon bun. Calories are not the definitive means of health.
So whyyyyyy do we have to have them staring at us now everywhere we go?
Why can’t we just know what we are eating by its ingredients, and know that if it is made up of whole, real foods, then it is a healthy choice. And if we do want that double decker burger and large fries, why can’t we just know that “nope, I just ain’t feeling the healthy thing today and want something greasy.” Order it. Accept there may be some sort of high “number” attached to it. Eat it. Move on.
Because that’s okay too.
I’m interested to know what any registered dietitians out there think of this, as well. Do you think it is good to have calorie counts listed in restaurants? I understand that not everybody is as aware of nutrition and healthy eating as this blog world of ours. So if someone is looking to/needing to lose weight, I can see that there would be reason why someone may agree to having calorie counts listed. Doing so may help one in choosing the “healthier” choice in some situations, when they may have not known how else to otherwise. But then I go back to my debate about what true health is. Even when looking to lose weight, should we not be focusing on the “whats” and not the “how much’s?”
Because if anyone can tell you, attaching any sort of numbers to things that you eat SUCKS. But if these numbers continue to become “one” with the titles we see on menus, we are going to continue attaching what we eat, and our health, to numbers.
I’m not asking restaurants to fully stop having their calorie counts available. But if they feel the need to include them, why can’t they just have them somewhere OTHER than right infront of us so that we all at least have a CHOICE whether we want to see them or not!? That’s what a separate tab on a website can be for. Not billboard screens and table menus.Nutrients over Numbers. Why have we began attaching numbers to everything we eat? #eatrealfood… Click To Tweet
What is your opinion on restaurants including calorie contents on their menus?
Popping in here for a real old-school What I Ate Wednesday (er, Monday…