Try This Tip for Healthier Eating Out
Dining out is a favorite American pastime. In fact, up to one-third of the calories Americans consume are purchased and eaten outside of the home. After all, who doesn’t enjoy letting someone else cook for a change? Today’s working women are busier than ever, and eating out occasionally can be a well-deserved reward. But restaurant dining can also be perilous to your diet if you’re watching calories like a hungry lioness eyeing dinner on the hoof.
To keep your diet on track, two new studies suggest that you may want to choose a restaurant that provides calorie counts in black and white. Some cities have enacted menu-labeling laws, requiring sit-down restaurants to provide detailed information about the nutritional profiles of the items they serve. In Philadelphia, where a labeling law has been in effect for several years, investigators wondered what effect this information might have on patrons’ choices.
They conducted surveys of customers who ate at a large full-service restaurant chain. Philadelphia-area restaurants featured detailed information about calories, sodium content, fat and carbohydrates on printed menus. Similar restaurants in other cities were not required to label menu items. The surveys revealed that people made healthier choices when nutritional information was listed on the menus. On average, customers ate 155 fewer calories when they knew exactly what they were ordering. They also consumed less sodium and fewer grams of fat. About one-quarter of customers reported that the information influenced their ordering decisions. Among these diners, 400 fewer calories were consumed.
Labeling isn’t standard yet, but it may help to seek out restaurants that offer this information if you’re interested in keeping tabs on your own consumption.
Auchincloss AH, Mallya GG, Leonberg BL, Ricchezza A, Glanz K, Schwarz DF. Customer responses to mandatory menu labeling at full-service restaurants. Am J Prev Med. 2013 Dec;45(6):710-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.07.014.