The Novice Foodie

Just eating real foods, lifting heavy things and learning about it along the way

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Up Front and Center

It’s making an appearance, and it’s sweeping menus everywhere!

Next time you eat out, beware–there might be some extra numbers beside your menu options.

My first encounter was innocent enough. I opened my menu at Olive Garden and begin browsing. Name, description, price…calorie count? Select nutritional information was listed right there on the menu!

As a health-conscious person, I was delighted yet surprised to see the little (or not so little) numbers printed alongside each dish. I was conflicted. The health side of me thought, well this is convenient to have this listed right here, while the rest of me thought the menu was being a little rude. Calories have always been a little taboo, haven’t they? Especially at a place like the Olive Garden, where patrons are (or should be) prepped to indulge.

In disbelief, I glanced around. It didn’t seem to stop anybody from ordering the traditional dishes, like the seemingly harmless spaghetti and meatballs (a whopping 1,110 calories). I realized that I instantly had the power to make judgements about everyone in the restaurant.

But, did I really want this information shoved in my face right away? I will admit that I have read the nutrition facts online before, and I knew what selections were some of the lesser evils (Cheese ravioli is 660 calories) and which ones were the worst (Tour of Italy at 1450…no surprise there.) But it still caught me a little off-guard to have the numbers in my face like that. And totally prevented me from cheating.

I was at dinner with family, but looking at the couple across the room, I thought how awkward this may or may not be for the self-conscious dinner date. I know I would be more likely to choose something with fewer calories if I was with my significant other (salads anyone?)

A few weeks later, I stopped in Panera to grab breakfast on the go. There on their menu was a listing of nutrition facts as well. This time, I took it as more of a convenience factor. It made my decision easier–The Power Breakfast Sandwich it was. No picking my brain to make a guess at the best option.

In retrospect, shouldn’t nutrition facts always be this easy to find? Subway did it. Arguably, packaged products have been doing it forever, even if we are trained to ignore them. And, I had spent the time looking online to find nutrition facts at both establishments prior to seeing the info. printed on their menus anyway, so having it there just does the work for me. It makes it easier to make healthy choices–no more looking it up and trying to remember it.

Overall, I think it’s a great initiative. Packaging may mislead, but nutrition facts are facts, after all. Maybe raising awareness about them is just what this nation needs.