Last week I was in NYC and I had not been there in a while. Something popped out at me which I had not noticed before : calorie counts posted on restaurant menus.
I had noticed this one morning at Starbucks…300 calories for a bagel, 400 to 500 for a muffin, scone or cookie. I didn’t think much of it.
Then one day I wanted a “quick” and “light” lunch. So I stopped in front of several sit down restaurants to look at the menu. And there they were. Calorie counts. 1 200, 1 500, 2 000 calories… Maybe this is something New Yorkers or Americans are used to but it surprised me. In France, I have never seen a calorie count in a restaurant, except in a fast food restaurant, and even then it is rare.
But what surprised me most was the fact that it CHANGED my behavior and attitude. I never count calories (anymore). But based on my past experience, I probably eat between 1800 and 2000 calories a day. I could not believe that ONE MEAL was 2 000 calories. If that was the case, one meal would fulfill my daily requirement. If I added breakfast and dinner, I would probably be eating 1 000 to 1 500 additional calories. Wow, that adds up fast.
So what did I do ? I decided to go to Le Pain Quotidien, a “Bakery and Communal restaurant”. I am familiar with this restaurant because there are a few in Paris, a chain started by a Belgian man in the early 1990s. It was a bit before its time because the food is made with only organic ingredients, and as it is “communal” you share tables, as well as butter and jam if you are there for breakfast.
This was the only restaurant that I knew had relatively “healthy” food, and the menu items that interested me had calories between 600 and 700. I ordered a tartine with smoked turkey, avocado, cucumber, salsa mustard and greens.
But as I sat there, all I could think about was those calories. I was flying later that day, and didnt want to eat too much so I didn’t eat all the bread, but ate all the toppings. Or was that just an excuse ?
Some questions I wondered about over the next few days. If the calories were not posted on the menus….
- Would I have eaten my whole meal ?
- Would I have eaten at the restaurant with an entree @ 2 000 calories ?
- Would I have made the healthy choice that I did ?
- Would I have bought a dessert ?
- Did knowing the calories take some joy out of my meal ?
I am not sure what I would have done, but I do know that posting calories changed my behavior and changed my restaurant and entree choice, even subconsciously.
I can see the benefit of creating awareness but I do admit it took some joy out of my meal.
How do you feel about posting calories on menus ? Has it changed your behavior ?