Seeing Calorie Counts at Restaurants has Stopped Me From Eating Out

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Starbucks announced this week that they will be posting the calorie count for all of their drinks in their stores.  This information has always been available in a book behind the counter if the customer requested it, in brochures, or on their app.  Some states already have a law in place stating that all eating establishments with over a certain number of locations need to post their caloric count for menu items so customers can make sound decisions.  But now everyone will know how many calories is in the grande green tea Frappuccino they're about to order.  Or not.

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Image: Kiuko via Flickr

As CBS reports,

The move by Starbucks comes as the Food and Drug Administration irons out the details of a regulation that would require companies with more than 20 locations to post calorie information on their menus. Other chains including McDonald's Corp. have also moved ahead with posting the information, saying they're providing it to be more transparent rather than because they're being forced to.

We've had this regulation in place in my state for a few years now.  The first place I encountered it was the Cheesecake Factory.  I went to order my usual fire-roasted artichoke and saw that I would be consuming 1028 calories if I ordered the vegetable.  I blinked for a bit, and then calculated in my head how many fire-roasted artichokes I've eaten in my lifetime (a lot).  After searching the menu for a bit, I ordered a salad I didn't really want to eat with the dressing on the side, took home half of it, and never went back to the Cheesecake Factory again.  I just can't justify spending 1028 calories on a meal, especially one that isn't that filling, when I try to consume around 1500 calories per day based on my height/weight.

The same thing happened at Panera (for the love -- that tomato soup with a side of baguette costs me half my calories for the day) and California Tortilla and... well... just about every single restaurant until it has reached the point that I just don't feel like eating out.  We used to eat out when I was stressed for time or was feeling lazy.  And now I stock the freezer with simple things such as a Morningstar Chik Pattie to heat up in the microwave on nights when I don't feel like cooking.  Because at least the calorie count for that item makes sense in the scope of how many calories I can justify squeezing into one meal.

It's not that we don't eat out, but when we do, we (1) plan for it calorically throughout the day -- no more spontaneous "let's go out to eat!" -- and (2) we tend to only go to small, family-owned restaurants where they don't post the calorie counts and I can eat in ignorant bliss, guesstimating the nutritional value of the meal I'm consuming.  But, yes, we don't go out very often anymore.

Coincidentally, the one place that I have continued to patron is Starbucks.  I can get an iced coffee, sweeten it with an Equal, and count it at zero-ish calories.  Every once in a while, I splurge and get a cream frappuccino with 2% milk (yes, you can ask for your frappuccino to be made with a lower fat milk), but when I do, I drink it in lieu of a meal.  Because it has the calories for an average meal. 

So, yes, I am definitely healthier and we've saved a lot of gasoline not going out, but the side effect is that restaurants are not getting my money.  So I do wonder what this will do to the economy. 

Will you still eat out when you can see just how many calories you're consuming?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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