Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Friday, January 8, 2010

Study examines calorie information from restaurants, packaged foods

Study examines calorie information from restaurants, packaged foods

One of the first bits of advice I give to people who are looking to lose weight and live healthy is stop eating at restaurants or least dramatically cut it down.

If you do go out to eat make your standards high and look for restaurants that serve healthy food.

I still go out to a restaurant every now and then but I'm almost always disgusted or at least disappointed by the slop I'm served.  I now limit my eating out to health food style restaurants, with very few exceptions.

The first response to this advice is that I'm a killjoy, I'm a "health nut" extremist, and eating in restaurants is a significant personal reward that no one is going to give up, and asking to do so is just weird.

One look at the dietary analysis of most restaurant food though, to those in the know, reveals how insanely grotesque most restaurant meals are.

When you're not that familiar with what calorie counts and sodium levels really mean to your health then learning that your meal was 3000 calories with 3000 mg of sodium doesn't seem to matter much.

The result of overeating and lack of exercise is making more of our population overweight and obese each year, and the magnitude of being overweight and obese also increases. It's not only that more people are overweight, but those who are overweight are more overweight than overweight people of a decade ago.

Mega calorie bomb restaurant meals contribute to this.

We've adapted to the way restaurants serve us food.  So much so that most of the population will be disappointed if they don't get a huge fat bomb meal.  Demand for overeating is driving what is served at restaurants as much as restaurants creating and enticing us with obesogenic meals is.

Sit down restaurant meals have more calories and sodium than fast food joints.

Now we have new research that suggests when restaurants do post calorie counts for their plates they under report by 18% on average and some meals have as much as 200% more calories than claimed.

Moreover I don't get the impression that anyone working in a restaurant from the servers to the owners to the chef give a rats rear end about calories or your health.

Recently I went out for dinner and ordered a salmon dish.  I asked the server if I could have it minus the cheese sauce knowing full well that the sauce will have hundreds of calories from fat and most likely 1000mg of sodium.  The server told me I can't order that way because the cheese sauce is where all the flavor is.

I asked, "you mean you think salmon has no flavor at all and the only way to for this meal to taste good is to smother it in fat"?

The server looked confused.  I told her that I would like a salmon dish but I want to avoid a calorie bomb meal.  This made the server a little cranky.

No the restaurant was not busy, the server was not under any pressure to move on.

Restaurant foods is a frequent topic for a coach.  "Hey Cris, do you have any tips on how to order healthy when I eat out?"  Yeah.  Don't eat out.  It really is that bad and those who can't wrap their head around that fact have blinders on or just don't realize how bad the situation actually is.

More and more research year after year supports this.  In fact it's this research that lead me to cut out almost all restaurant eating for myself.

The more I read about how chefs don't care about calories or sodium and about how huge the calorie counts are the more disgusted I became with the idea of eating out.  Which is too bad because I really liked eating out.

Ignorance is bliss though.  When I was feeling satisfied from a great tasting meal but not realizing I had just downed a entire days worth of calories and two days worth of sodium in one sitting all was good.

It did surprise me that despite training for an endurance sport and burning off thousands of calorie per week I would still notice gradual weight gain.  "How'd that happen?  Guess I'll cut down on calories for a few weeks".  Most people don't make a correction though and continue to gain weight.  Further to that point.. why should we need to go on a diet to counteract eating out?  Shouldn't the food be healthy to start with?

To be fair there are a few restaurants around that do have healthy serving sizes and nutrient dense food that tastes great.  My hope is that consumer demand will eventually pressure restaurants into making nutritional value just as much a priority as plate presentation is.

From the research I've read and from my personal experience I'll say the vast majority of restaurant menu items are calorie bomb - sodium bomb plates of utter garbage.. that just happen to taste good.

I don't think I could get more harsh than what I've written here, but from where I sit this is the way it is and my story is a hard one to sell because I sound like a negative nabob with a chip on my shoulder.  Hard to gain someones ear that way.

Trouble is there isn't a nice way to communicate this.  It's simply a fact:  most restaurant food is crap.  Even the $100.00 plates.  taste good?  No argument there, that's not where I'm going.  "Crap" in this context means an abomination of calories and sodium with low nutrient density.

It's analogous to the gradual progression of smoking being seen as disgusting, stinky, and really bad for your health. 30 or 40 years ago you were a nut if you spoke out against smoking the way I'm speaking out against restaurant food now.

I know the position I'm putting myself in, but I won't change my tune because there is too much research to show what I'm saying is true.

Think about it:  If you're not a smoker do you see smoking as a reward? No?  Why?  Because now it's common knowledge; we've accepted how terribly unhealthy smoking is.

We haven't yet accepted how terribly unhealthy eating fat bomb - sodium bomb meals is, and most don't completely get that the vast majority of restaurant meals are well in excess of 1000 calories, excessively high in sodium, and many meals being greater than 2000 calories.

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