TMI: Too Much Information?

by Khushboo on July 8, 2011

The other day my sister and I were BBM’ing and unsurprisingly, our respective lunch plans came into conversation. She was eating at a restaurant which listed on its menu the calories of individual dishes. I know this is becoming more of a regular practice across the US but I was shocked to hear that it has reached Dubai too. Although it’s merely additional information, I think its effectiveness remains rather controversial:

Pros

  • Empowers consumers to make healthier choices: those who aren’t necessarily healthy don’t realize just how caloric a simple dish can be. Knowing the calories may serve as a great eye-opener.
  • Enables dieters/calorie counters to eat out without the guilt/guesswork
  • Informative, not pressurizing: how the consumer responds and what they order is completely up to him/her
  • Promotes a healthier lifestyle
  • Encourages restaurants to make healthier meals that taste delicious without excessive salt, sugar, and fat
  • Increases the transparency of restaurants

Cons: 

  • Customers don’t need calories to choose healthy v. unhealthy. People aren’t stupid. They know when they are and aren’t eating healthy. It’s obvious that foods full of butter are unhealthy and high in calories.
  • Takes the pleasure out of eating out: When I eat out, I sometimes likely to be blissfully ignorant. I know desserts are high in calories but to be honest, I’m really not interested to know HOW high.
  • Healthy lifestyles go beyond calories: calorie counts create the illusion of some unified measure of healthiness that low calories always equals good and high calories indicate bad. Take salmon v. deli turkey: the former is the healthier choice yet also more caloric 😯 .
  • Unlikely to decrease obesity: Personally, I think a person has to WANT to lose weight. Without inner desire, no amount of information will be helpful.
  • Eliminates spontaneity: if restaurants need to calculate the nutritionals of every single dish, chances of adding/changing their menus is going to be less likely.
  • Encourages a calorie-counting mindset and if my experience speaks, that can drive you to Crazy-Town.

My take: I think the display of nutritionals is both a good and bad idea. On weeks when I’m eating out often, I would definitely appreciate knowing a ball-part figure of my meal. On such weeks, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy balance so this would certainly help.   At the same time, I’m also leaning towards the thought that ‘ignorance is bliss’.  Eating out should be a treat and for me, the pleasure of the dining experience is affected when I have the calories staring right in my face. Perhaps it would be more ideal for restaurants to list such info on their company website or in a separate leaflet which is handed out upon request. I tend to base my decisions on a meal’s nourishment value so more than just calories, I think it would also be empowering to provide an ingredient list.

What is your take on restaurants displaying calories on their menus?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Parita @ myinnershakti July 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I think we need to spend more time on educating people on their choices, moderation, and balance. I agree with you in that I don’t think this is going to solve anything or really change behavior. And I totally agree that when I eat out, I want to enjoy what I’m eating w/out being reminded about how many calories I’m consuming…geez!

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Priyanka July 8, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Since I don’t eat out regularly, it is treat for me and I don’t care about the calories! That however does not mean I want to down 4000 calories in one sitting. So this whole idea of calorie display is a tool for the consumer.

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Pooja Mirpuri July 11, 2011 at 8:47 pm

I think it’s also a good tool for the restaurant because they’ll make healthier choices when preparing the food, without compromising on flavour

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