The restaurant industry's dirty secret

Zac reported last week on the ludicrous proposal of a Mississippi legislator to ban obese people from restaurants in the state. Silly as this may be, it has inspired discussion about our nation's struggle with belly bulge.

An article in a recent Business Week pointed out one hurdle in our battle, obtaining nutritional information about the food our restaurants serve. Health advocates are becoming more vociferous in demanding that this information be presented to diners as part of the ordering process. Many restaurants, however, prefer to hide this information behind a curtain of inconvenience, online and unavailable at the time of ordering, or on posters inconvenient for diners in line to order. Few non-chain restaurants have taken the time to even compile such a list, although it would be a simple exercise in measurement and addition.

In the wake of a New York law that takes effect April 1 requiring all chain restaurants to post nutritional information, the National Restaurant Association and other restaurant representatives are coalescing opposition to such measures. I suspect they rightly fear that customers might reduce their consumption of high fat, high sugar, high profit, selections such as sodas and French fries if they knew their health cost.

One convenient, free site that has gathered such info for hundreds of restaurants is Dottie's Weight Loss Zone. While the dish's calorie loads are given in Weight Watcher's points, multiplying them by 50 calories per point will give you a ballpark idea of the dish's content.

How might this help? Knowing the calorie content of a scrumptious cheesecake won't stop me from ordering a slice. However, it might help dissuade me from high-calorie choices that I don't care for all that much, or ones full of sneaky calories, like many salads. If knowing is half the battle, unfortunately, this is the easy half.

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