Americans continue to struggle with our weight, and many put a large portion of the blame at the feet of the fast food restaurants that we love to frequent. A number of chains have made their nutritional information available, both online and in stores, and many consumers are making good use of them. Even so, there is growing pressure on the restaurants to make sure that nutritional information, particularly caloric data, is displayed prominently in each location. One prevailing thought is that this type of transparency will cause us to limit our fast food habit, or even eliminate it altogether, but is this necessarily true?
Choosing The Right Restaurant
I’ve been interested in nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle for nearly 25 years now, and during that entire time, I’ve also enjoyed eating out, even at fast food restaurants. As nutritional information becomes available for a particular chain, I generally feel more comfortable in eating at the restaurant, not less comfortable. In fact, for me, not knowing the nutritional value of available food is more likely to keep me from visiting a restaurant. On the off chance that caloric information is provided but there is nothing suitable on the menu, then I’ll select a different eatery, not abandon my plans to eat out altogether.
Choosing The Right Menu Items
Once you’re in a restaurant, having calorie totals laid out boldly in front of you can help you quickly make good food choices. For instance, let’s say you’ve ventured into Subway and have your eye on a Five-Dollar Footlong. A quick perusal of the calorie chart would tell you that the oven-roasted chicken weighs in at about 500 calories less than the spicy italian. Both are delicious, but the chicken fits in much better with a healthy lifestyle. The same benefit can be had at all types of restaurants: choose a grilled chicken sandwich over a cheeseburger, a bean burrito over a gordita, and baked penne pasta with chicken over fettucini alfredo. If you’re creative, you can use caloric comparisons to eat at just about any fast food joint, so you won’t have to limit your visits.
Choosing The Right Portion Size
Just because you’ve decided to eat better doesn’t mean that you’ll never order your favorite foods again. If you have caloric information readily available to you, it’s much easier to pick a portion size of your beloved treats that will satisfy your taste buds while not completely blowing your diet. For example, if you are tempted by Wendy’s Chocolate Frosty, you can save about 200 calories by opting for the small rather than the large. This strategy definitely limits your fast food calorie total, but doesn’t preclude you from purchasing other items at the same visit or from coming back again.
By providing consumers with readily accessible caloric information in their restaurants, fast food chains face some uncertainties. Some diners may become discouraged by the numbers they see and subsequently curtail their eating habits, but other outcomes are probably more likely. Consumers may change their eating habits or just ignore the nutritional information altogether, and restaurants will have the opportunity to gain or retain customers by offering more healthful options. My bet is that Americans won’t stop eating out any time soon, regardless of the information available to us.
Wendy’s Nutrition Information, Wendy’s
McDonald’s USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Menu Items, McDonald’s USA
Subway Nutritional Information, Subway
Taco Bell Nutrition Info, Taco Bell
Arby’s Nutrition, Arby’s