Fast Food Rations

Cathy Hamilton Health Guide
  • While munching on my lemon chicken, braised spinach and mixed greens Sunday night, I became absorbed by a story on "60 Minutes" (I know, I know, you're not supposed to watch TV while you eat, but I'm an empty nester. I've earned the right to break the rules once in a while).


    In the story, nutrition and marketing professor, Brian Wansink, interviewed randomly selected diners at a Subway restaurant in a mall food court. He asked them to estimate how many calories were contained in the combo meal they were eating, including a foot-long Subway sandwich with mayo, chips and juice.


    "300?" one guy speculated.

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    In truth, his meal packed a whopping 1,350 calories!! Quite a shocker from a restaurant chain that's made millions on one formerly fat guy's diet plan. Say it isn't so, Jared!


    Thomas Frieden, New York City's health commissioner - the guy responsible for banning smoking from city bars and trans-fats from city restaurants - wants fast food restaurants to display calorie counts for all of their offering, right up on the menu board for all to see.


    Currently, most restaurants provide nutrition information only on their Web sites and that got me thinking.


    When I'm crunched for time at work, I head to a nearby Sonic for my favorite fast lunch - the Santa Fe Chicken salad. In spite of the onion ring that sits on top of the grilled chicken breast, I felt certain that salad came in around 300 calories. So I looked it up.


    At the bottom of Sonic's Web site - next to the Privacy Policy, Legal Statement and all the other fine print most people don't read - is a link called "Nutrition." I clicked on it and opened a pdf file with 10 pages of nutritional information on every one of their products, in a font too tiny for my 51-year-old eyes to read. Fortunately, I found the "zoom" buttom and located my salad on the first page.


    A-ha! 380 calories! I wasn't TOO far off. Not like that poor, clueless schmuck at Subway. But wait! The dressing was listed separately. And even though I always order the light ranch dressing, it weighed in at a whopping 120 calories! The better choice, obviously, would be the fat-free golden Italian at 50 calories per pouch.


    I vowed to adjust my ordering next time I hit the drive-in and wondered if seeing calorie totals on the menu board would make a difference to me. I think it would. Yes! It definitely would.


    We're in the midst of an obesity epidemic due, in large measure, to the fast food industry. The least they can do is provide nutritional information to their customers in a place we can actually SEE at the time of ordering...not buried at the bottom of a Web site.


    (Meanwhile, my midlife meltdown continues for a total loss of 3.5 pounds!

    I'm not breaking any records but my motivation is high coming into the

    holiday season. Now, if I can only survive the Thanksgiving feast I have

    to prepare....)

Published On: November 19, 2007