Close Encounters of the Calorie Kind |

Close Encounters of the Calorie Kind

A recently enacted law in New York City requires chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus. The rule applies to any restaurant with more than 15 outlets nationwide, and stipulates that the information must be in the same font and format as the rest of the menu. No burying the bad news in the fine print. The measure is aimed at lowering NYC’s staggering 54% obesity rate. That explains why the subways are always so cramped.
The legislation was met with resistance from restaurants throughout the city, who sued citing a violation of their 1st Amendment Rights. The courts disagreed, and as of July 18th, any establishment failing to comply will be subject to up to $2000 in fines. Or roughly $1 for every calorie in your super-sized value meal. This leaves many consumers reconsidering their snacking options after learning that a Dunkin' Donuts muffin or a Starbucks cookie both pack more than 600 calories. Mercifully, a small coffee has only around 15 calories, before the cream and sugar of course.

Perhaps those feeling the effects most are the sit-down chains such as TGI Friday’s and Outback Steakhouse. Chains like these that once catered to our uniquely American demand for huge portions are now facing the caloric consequences of their actions. Consider Outback’s Bloomin’ Onion appetizer which has 2,310 calories or 300 more than the FDA recommended intake for an entire day (management insists is meant to be shared by 2 or more people). Or how about a chicken salad from TGI Friday’s that has 1,360 calories, about 100 more than their cheeseburger with fries. It’s true that these establishments do offer some healthier alternatives. Outback offers guidelines on their website on how to order in accordance with your dietary needs. Most of this involves ordering no butter, no dressing, no cheese, etc. but at least it’s an option.

It’s too soon to tell what, if any, effect this new legislation will have on restaurants and consumers. It seems that diners are going through a bit of sticker shock, and are shying away from some of the more belly-busting offerings out there for now. I can’t help but wonder we’ll just get used to seeing outlandish calorie counts on our menus the way we’ve gotten used to seeing exorbitant prices at the gas pump.


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