December 12, 2006

Sit-down restaurant less healthier than fast food restaurants?

Didn’t we all think that it’s much better to frequent the local sit-down restaurant than Burger King or McDonald’s? Think again. We were wrong.

If you want the WrongSize of calories, fat and salt then go to your sit-down restaurant.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, for example, it’s reported that a Ruby Tuesday hamburger has 1,103 calories and 78 grams of fat, while a double quarter pounder with cheese from McDonald’s has only 730 calories and 40 grams of fat. (Remember, it’s recommended that we eat between 1,200-2,200 calories and 65 total grams of fat daily.)

According to the Agriculture Dept.’s report, “Let’s Eat Out”, people make the wrong assumption about what’s healthy and what’s not.

Consumers who are looking for healthful foods are also 19 percent more likely to patronize full-service restaurants than they are to pick fast-food outlets. These latter consumers, who generally avoid fast-food fare, may believe that full-service establishments provide relatively healthful foods. In fact, other research shows that meals and snacks consumed at full-service restaurants are not nutritionally superior to fast food. Compared with fast food meals, full-service meals tend to be higher in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, on average, while lower in saturated fats.

But it appears that restaurant owners and executives of restaurant chains are clueless! They believe that we will continue to buy their unhealthy food choices.

They have little incentive to change anything, until we force them to.

The report says:

Do Americans even want healthful foods, and do they apply their knowledge of health and nutrition when making choices about where to eat out and how often to do so? In a recent study, executives of major restaurant chains were interviewed about opportunities for promoting healthful foods at their restaurants. The executives’ reactions were mixed. Some expressed skepticism that offering more healthful foods would increase patronage at their establishments.” Most restaurant customers’ attitude is ‘When I go out to eat, I want what I want...’,” one said. However, many of these executives also said that increasing consumer awareness of health and nutrition is the best avenue for managing the Nation’s obesity epidemic.

The report says, “consumers’ demands for away-from-home foods are driven by more than the desire for a healthful diet.” Factors include convenience and entertainment value that seems to override the healthfulness of food.

But I believe that the RightSize, convenience, flavor and entertainment do not have to be exclusive.

WorstSize Foods (from “Restaurant Confidential”, Workman Publishing)

Chinese: Kung Pao chicken, 1,630 calories

Italian: Fettuccine Alfredo, 1,500 calories

Mexican: Loaded taco salad, 1,100 calories

Seafood: Fried clams, 830 calories

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