Calories on Restaurant Menus
How does reading calories on restaurant menus make you feel? Have you been to eat lately and noticed this? Has it affected your choice in a good way, or in a bad way?
On Friday I went out with some of the Fitfish team when we came together for Jen Baker’s conference ‘Elevate’. We went out for dinner to a Lebanese restaurant. The meal was absolutely lovely and the time to catch up even better, but I remember there being calories on the menu and it just reminded me how much I find this quite uncomfortable. In this video and blog I explain the three reasons why…
1 Showing calories on a menu suggests that calories in themselves are some kind of measure worth living by, but we know that’s not true! There’s no mention on the menu of salt content; whether the food is processed and if so, how processed it is; how many vitamins or minerals are in the dish; or the saturated fat content. I can understand that the people who have decided this is a good idea want to tackle the obesity crisis, but i’m not convinced that showing calories is directly related to how much we eat either, because if someone fills up on lower calorie foods, it possibly means they are not fulfilling their needs and will eat more later on. Focusing on calories means you may miss out on some great food that could be really good for you and help you to be a healthier person. So, if your aim when you’re going out is to be healthier, I’m not sure calories is the answer.
2 When you go out for food, unless you do it all the time it’s likely the reason you’re going out isn’t anything to do with calories. If your main focus is on eating as few calories as possible you probably would have stayed at home – you could have had a cup-a-soup or a glass of water. I believe food has 4 main purposes:
When we go out for a meal the purpose is mainly enjoyment, community, socialising and to celebrate! Enjoyment is a big part of what God created food for. He could have designed us just to eat leaves, or to eat a pellet, or he could have designed our bodies to feed themselves or not to need feeding at all. Instead of that he created a wide variety of beautiful, tasty foods for our enjoyment, and surely no more so than when we do that in fellowship with our friends and family.
The low- or zero-calorie foods that you might see in health food shops don’t offer you any of these 4 benefits. They don’t offer nutrition – that’s impossible if there are no calories – they don’t replenish or energise you and they aren’t any fun to eat either. So, if zero calorie foods are pointless, why are we focusing on calories on a menu?
3 I believe focusing on calories is really just putting a sticking plaster over what’s going on. We know that the lowest calorie option doesn’t equal the healthiest option and I believe that counting calories covers up all the real reasons that you overeat: it makes you feel guilty and it stops you looking at the reasons why you eat what you don’t want to. There are so many emotions related to food but if you just focus on counting calories, you’re not looking at any of those things at all and this holds you back from moving forward on this journey. There’s a real danger that you’ll then be stuck in that kind of cycle, possibly for the whole of your life.
I remember when I was on some well-known diets, I made some really skewed decisions because of calories. On one diet, butternut squash squash was ‘0 points’, so I ended up having it mashed, chipped, fried, spiralized and more. My boyfriend at the time joked that I should plough my small garden into a butternut squash field, I ate l so much of it. And unsurprisingly it made me feel sick in the end and there was a period of my life where I couldn’t eat it at all.
And I made some other skewed decisions because calories, not health, was my main aim. I thought, “Why have a higher calorie avocado or a banana when I can have some Rich Tea biscuits, a bag of Skips, some pink wafer biscuits or some weight watchers’ sweets?” I now know that calories are only a tiny part of the picture.
So, what’s the alternative to counting calories if you do have health concerns, would like to lose some body fat, or get a bit healthier?
I suggest keeping things quite loose – this is something you are going to be on for the rest of your life and you don’t want any black or white lines that you can trip over and be “on” or “off” a diet plan. One option is to aim to eat natural foods 80% of the time, and for the other 20% eat other things that you enjoy.
Something we talk about in my membership groups is ‘cinching’, where you continue to eat as you eat now but you just cinch everything in slightly. Perhaps look at changing your body composition by doing some more resistance work and muscle bearing exercise. Whatever you do, it’s got to be a gradual process, so it becomes your normal way of eating, as this is something you’ll be on for life.
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