Category Archives: restaurants

New York City proposes new sodium rules for restaurants

image3Salt is in the news often these days. And even if you don’t have any apparent reasons to be careful of your sodium intake, it’s probably a good idea to become more salt sensitive. It’s definitely a culprit in health problems that can “sneak up on you.” Honestly, we’re all eating too much salt, even if we don’t know we are.

And that’s where New York City comes in. New York is no stranger to proposing regulations surrounding food and beverages. New York City has banned trans fats at restaurants, posted calorie counts on menus and tried, unsuccessfully, to limit the size of sodas. Now the city is taking aim at a new edible adversary: sodium.

Under a plan to be presented by the de Blasio administration on Wednesday, many chain restaurants would have to post a warning label on the menu beside any dish that has more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, the daily limit recommended by many nutritionists.

The amount is akin to a teaspoon of salt, and foods that contain it — like a half-rack of ribs at T.G.I. Fridays (2,420 milligrams), or the chicken fajitas at Applebee’s (4,800 milligrams) — would be denoted by a small icon of a saltshaker.

The measure, which requires approval by the Board of Health, could take effect as soon as December. It is the first foray by Mayor Bill de Blasio into the kind of high-profile public health policies championed by his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

“It’s quite difficult for consumers to understand which products might have too much sodium in them,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, a deputy commissioner at the city’s Health Department, who pointed to links between high sodium intake and a greater risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

Attempts by the city to regulate New Yorkers’ eating habits have often been resisted by restaurant groups, which call such rules onerous and an infringement on consumer rights. Mr. de Blasio’s sodium proposal was no exception.

“Restaurants in New York City are already heavily regulated at every level,” said Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association. Pointing to various federal and local rules, she added, “The composition of menus may soon have more warning labels than food products.”

If passed, the proposal, which was reported by The Associated Press, would affect mainly restaurants with 15 establishments or more in New York City, along with some movie theaters and ballpark concession stands. Officials said about 10 percent of menu items would require labels.

Still, many fast-food staples would escape the labeling threshold, like a Whopper with cheese at Burger King (1,260 milligrams of sodium) or KFC’s chicken potpie (1,970 milligrams).

“It’s a rather conservative choice of benchmark,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition group. “It seems pretty generous to the restaurant industry: Up to a whole day’s worth of sodium, and you don’t have to put an icon on your menu,” Mr. Jacobson said. But, he added, “Hopefully it will guide people away from these kinds of meals.”

This is not the first time that a New York City mayor has taken on salty foods. Mr. Bloomberg introduced the National Salt Reduction Initiative to encourage chains to lower the amount of sodium in their products voluntarily.

By the end of this year, Mr. Bloomberg’s effort to print calorie counts on menus is going national: The Food and Drug Administration is to require calorie counts in national restaurant chains, movie theaters and pizza parlors.

Those rules could pose a legal wrinkle for the city’s sodium plan, since states and localities would be forbidden to add their own nutrition labels to places covered under federal rules. City officials said their plan would pass muster because the saltshaker functions as a “warning label,” not a nutritional one.

There are a few things that FoodFacts.com takes issue with – like someone saying that soon there will be more warning labels than food items listed on menus. Here’s a thought. Perhaps restaurants should commit to preparing and serving foods with livable sodium levels. Then they wouldn’t have to “litter” their menus with small salt shaker images. The health of consumers should be a significant concern for all kinds of restaurants – fast food, fast casual, and sit down establishments alike. Consumers are responsible for the popularity and profitability of all of them. You’d think they’d be more concerned about helping consumers stay healthy, and able and capable of patronizing their locations for years to come. Until they are, it’s probably a good idea to use those images of salt shakers on their menus (not just in New York City, but everyplace else as well) so we know what we’re eating.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/10/nyregion/de-blasio-administration-wants-high-sodium-warnings-on-menus.html?_r=1

CDC Infographic Shows Super-sized Portions Are the New Normal

 

THW NEW (AB)NORMAL.

FoodFacts has learned that “Super Sized” portions are the new normal sized portions.

In the mid-2000s, Cornell researcher Brain Wasink performed an experiment called the “bottomless bowl of soup.” He gave unsuspecting diners self-filling bowls of tomato soup to see how they would naturally regulate how much they consumed. On average, they ate 73% more than control subjects with normal bowls. Humans aren’t good at saying no to food. And that tendency to mindlessly keep eating when provided with super-sized portions has some serious health consequences.

The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) new infographic, “The New (Ab)Normal,” makes clear how the increase in portion sizes over the past 50 years has corresponded to America’s ever-expanding waistline. The average American is 26 pounds heavier than in 1950. About one-third of us are overweight or obese and that number is projected to hit nearly 50% by 2030. At the same time, the size of a hamburger has tripled, a basket of fries more than doubled, and the average soda has grown from a modest 7 ounces to a jumbo 42 ounces.

A 2009 study of chain restaurants shows that 96% of the entrees served exceeded U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendations for calories, sodium, and fat. The CDC says the average restaurant meal is also four times larger than it was in the 1950s. Looking at these statistics, it’s not surprising that eating only one fast food meal a week is associated with overweight and obesity.

We’d all like to eat healthy, home cooked meals, but sometimes that’s not realistic. When you are eating out, especially at a chain or fast food restaurants, the CDC recommends splitting your meal with a companion, taking half home, or ordering the smallest size entrée on the menu available. They also encourage patrons to ask restaurant managers to provide smaller portions.

When trying to visually estimate appropriate portion size, the following comparisons can be helpful: A healthy serving of fruit vegetables is about the size of a baseball, a serving of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards, a serving of rice is about the size of a light bulb, a serving of fat, such as butter or mayo, should be no larger than a poker chip.

 

McDonald’s Salads-More Fat than a Big Mac??

McDonald’s and plenty of other fast food chains are all jumping on the “healthy” food bandwagon. But don’t let the marketing schemes fool you. Take McDonald’s for example,(they are the most widely known with some of the best marketing) we showed you how their Perfect Oatmeal wasn’t so perfect and now let’s take a look at how their salads aren’t any better.

McDonald’s isn’t the only fast food restaurant creating salad disasters. Burger King’s Chicken Caesar Salad has more fat and calories than a BK Double Hamburger. Wendy’s Taco Supreme Salad is very high in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

“The Melo” Sandwich

New York City is welcoming back basketball All-Star Carmelo Anthony with open arms and what better way for the Big Apple to celebrate then with an iconic deli sandwich. “The Melo” isn’t just any sandwich though, it’s New York City skyscraper style with a pound of Pastrami, Salami, Corn Beef and a half pound of Bacon. That’s a lot of meat! And a ton of calories from our calculations it looks like this sandwich could have around 4,444 calories, 114.5 grams of saturated fat and 20,704 milligrams of sodium! Wow! But then again, watch the video and take a look at this hunk of a deli sandwich there is no way you can eat this alone or in one sitting. We love the enthusiasm New York is showing but please share this ‘Melo Meal” with friends…it looks like a heart attack on a plate for just one person!

Menu-labeling grows at California restaurants

Boston's manager Richard Tess garnishes the steak and broccoli dish in Rancho Cucamonga CA on Thursday. Boston's is one of several restaurants involved with the city's Healthy RC Dining program. (Photo by John Valenzuela)

Boston's manager Richard Tess garnishes the steak and broccoli dish in Rancho Cucamonga CA on Thursday. Boston's is one of several restaurants involved with the city's Healthy RC Dining program. (Photo by John Valenzuela)

Diners get a look at nutritional contents

It’s lunch time. Do you know where the caloric content in your pasta carbonara is hiding?

Chances are if you’re dining at a major chain restaurant, that scary piece of information can be found on the back of the menu. Continue reading

California’s Menu Labeling Ordinance

California Menu Labeling Ordinance

California Menu Labeling Ordinance

Get The Facts

Foodfacts.com members and blog subscribers who reside in California are probably aware of the state’s Menu Labeling Ordinance. it is being watched by other states as a possible model of things to come.

Known as the Labeling Education and Nutrition Act (LEAN), the bill SB 1420, overrides a patchwork of city and local ordinances passed in California, and is a move which was supported by many trade organizations as it will clarify requirements across the state.

While legal requirements are much clearer, you might be facing some big decisions. We know you don’t need an “armchair nutritionist” who will mono-focus on the numbers without understanding a company’s brand, their operations, their guests’ needs and their long term goals.

The state has already experienced success in blending applied nutrition with a chef-driven approach and their focus on flavor informs all of their work on nutritional analysis.

For consumers, this is an interesting trend. Politics aside, once state government does get involved in menu labeling legislation, many believe that it further empowers consumers to make intelligent restaurant food choices.

Foodfacts.com is interested to know if you would support such a movement within your state? Please let us know in our comments section.

The Culinary Edge.com