Monday, April 02, 2007

Ah, so those entrees really are bigger

Once in a blue moon, the family will go out for a meal at one of those "casual dining" establishments. Houston does not lack for them, though in many instances, places like Friday's, Chili's, and Applebee's, to name the three most recent excursions (about one a month, if not less), have been seriously lacking in service. However, that would be the topic of another post. This time I am wondering about something I have seen when you go to such establishments: the size of those appetizers and desserts. You order an appetizer, and they bring you an item that could feed a small army. I thought the idea of the appetizer was to give you a little something to munch on while you wait for the main course, not something to fill you up so that you can't make it to the main course, let alone dessert. Personally, I very rarely have dessert. If we order dessert, we usually share it, and very often, if the little one is with us, one is enough for three people. So, if you are someone who cares about what they eat and how much, then places like those casual dining places may not be for you unless you are willing to really be vigilant. Little did I know that I was not the only one pondering how the restaurants get away with such monstrous portions.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has published a short document entitled Xtreme Eating (warning: PDF, about 3 pages). You can read the press release here. The organization argues that people should be informed about all the extra calories that those items, such as that big bacon burger or the buffalo chicken with sour cream quesadilla, have. I am not one to argue for paternalistic actions; I certainly was not thrilled that New York was legislating things like trans-fats, not because I am not for more healthy choices, but because I think people should be able to make smart choices on their own (not to mention I think the government has better things to do than telling people how to eat or fry their food). However, the report does give you some food for thought. After all, if you have been to any of those chain places, and you have read the menu, finding some item that is reasonable enough in terms of size and calories for one person is not an easy task. Even when they offer some "healthy" alternatives, they are usually hidden in the back of the menu or in small print, and even those alternatives I would question. So, while I believe an adult should be able to choose what they eat, at least they should have some semblance of a level playing field. As for us, we usually don't get any appetizers, preferring to go straight to the meal itself. I am not one for desserts, but the ladies in the house have a bit of a sweet tooth. As mentioned, we just get one dessert, and depending on the place, believe me, that is more than enough.

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