Calorie-counting menus could soon be coming to a restaurant near you. So will they change your mind about what to order or would you rather live in food-fuelled ignorance?
I’ve always favoured the ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach when dining – after all, it’s a treat to eat out. Then I read about the 1,600 calorie salad and realised that ignorance is actually rather fattening.
This week, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced that he wants to introduce a a voluntary scheme, urging restaurants to be more transparent about the calorie content of their food. The Food Standards Agency launched a pilot of the scheme last year, but although several restaurants signed up, it has yet to be rolled out in practice.
Over in the States, Obama has made it a legal requirement for restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets to list calorie content. While legislation might be a step too far in the UK at this stage, it’ll be interesting to see how the voluntary approach pans out. Hopefully this renewed push for companies to act will mean it is more widely embraced.
Let’s go global
Admittedly, adding this kind of information to menus is costly and time-consuming for businesses. Can my local Italian restaurant really keep up with calorie-counting on its daily specials, for example?
Of course not, so it makes sense that the chains lead the way. They’ve got the resources and they repeat the same menus throughout the country.
Come to think of it, some of the big chains may even have the same menus worldwide. How much difference can there be between a Big Mac or a Whopper in Los Angeles or London? So all the international chains that have to list calories in the US have no excuse not to do the same over here.
Make lunchtimes lighter
It’s also these kinds of ‘restaurants’ that some people tend to use on a regular basis, popping in for a lunchtime burger a few times a week. Being clear about just how fattening that is might just change a few minds.
Personally, I’d like to see more sandwich chains embrace this scheme. Some argue that the lack of nutritional information on their packaging isn’t a problem because it’s listed on the website. Unless you’ve got a smartphone, that’s not exactly helpful. Even then, who wants to spend a good part of their precious lunch hour looking up nutritional information in a sandwich shop?
Of course, this announcement has its fair share of opponents. Wimpy reckons that listing calories on its menus in 2008 had no effect on buying habits. Meanwhile, food charity Sustain thinks the scheme should go further and include information about fat, salt and sugar too.
Maybe, but for now let’s start simple. Hopefully it will encourage restaurants to sign-up – and get diners like me used to the idea that salads aren’t always healthy.
Do you want calories listed on restaurant menus?
No, we should use our common sense (56%, 87 Votes)
Yes, it would help people eat more healthily (44%, 69 Votes)
Total Voters: 156