January 12, 2007

Boston asks restaurants for at least one appropriate portion

The city of Boston has started a unique program-- Boston BestBites -- to help eaters identify at least one meal at a restaurant that is served at appropriate portions. Unfortunately, only 15 restaurants have decided to participate.

The guidelines were pretty simple and were reviewed by nutritionists using the most current scientific evidence. The meals had to be under a 150 calories for an appetizer, under 200 calories for a dessert and under 650 calories for an entrée. Again, right now only 15 restaurants would participate. And remember this is to have at least one item on the menu that meets the guidelines.

The limit of 650 calories for an adult entrée is based on Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends intake of 2000 calories per day for an average American adult. Dividing this moderate daily intake by 3 meals a day gives a calorie limit of 650 calories for each meal.

Why did Boston start this program.

Bostonians love to eat out. We love the convenience and the variety at hundreds of neighborhood restaurants. And we’re eating increasing numbers of our meals away from home – more than 40% of our ‘food dollar’ is spent on food eaten away from home, according to the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.

But it’s easy to eat too much when we eat out. Restaurant portion sizes are larger than we’d usually prepare at home. And it’s hard to tell the amount of calories, fat, and sodium that are in prepared dishes. Studies show that consumers consistently underestimate the calories in restaurant meals (Anyone’s Guess, Center for Science in the Public Interest).

Even though the list of restaurants is small, it's one small step for mankind...

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