herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Yes, I need help with the sneaky stealth calories

Oh dear, just what we need -- another set of numbers to fret about as we pore over the menu.

Not too long ago, all we had to think about when we went out to eat was 'what do I fancy?'

We weren't that bothered by the prices when we had loads of money.

We thought nothing of €2.50 glasses of water, €15 burgers and €3 cappuchinos. Not any more -- prices are as keenly studied now as the jus accompanying our seared scallops once was.

And if Minister Dr Mr Killjoy James Reilly has his way, we'll soon have to throw the calorie count into the mix when we're choosing our dinner.

But will it do anything to fight the fat crisis we're told is engulfing us?

Do we really need a menu to tell us that a plate-load of chips will pork us up quicker than a nice crisp salad?

Or that a piece of grilled sole with a side of green beans is a leaner option than the battered cod and chunky chips?

Perhaps not.

But how many of us actually consider that the lunch-time foot-long crusty baguette, stuffed with ham, egg mayo and some healthy salad is packing close to half your daily calorie 'allowance'?

Or that your daily full-fat latte adds up to the equivalent of a blow-out takeaway every week?

Yes, a calorie count smacks of the nanny-state, constantly warning us off the things we enjoy - but which, as is usually the case, aren't good for us.

And it's doubtful it will be much of an influence on many of the seriously obese people who know well the calorie/fat/carb content of food but overeat for different reasons.

But it may help the majority of us who have to keep the proverbial eye on our weight and are frequently undone by stealth calories.

They're the ones that that sneak up on us via the sauce on our fish, the dressing on our crispy salad and what we put in our coffee. Cream and a dash of caramel syrup?

That'll be another 140 calories, thank you very much.

The evidence that telling people the calorie content of food when they're eating out works, is there in international studies which show people reduced their daily intake by 6pc when told what they were consuming.

And the evidence that we need to do something as a society to tackle the flab is hard to miss.

Ironically, as we pursue better value from our eating out, we're digging in to bigger portions and tasty extras that come 'free' with our main course.

A three-course lunch for €18 may be cracking value - but if it takes two hours in the gym to work off dessert, is it worth it?

If Dr Reilly does get the catering industry -- from the fast food outlets and sandwich bars to the high-end restaurants -- to show customers the calorie content, it will make us think twice before tucking in.

And no, they won't ruin that special-occasion dining experience. You'll develop selective blindness for that part of the menu, just like you do for the price list.

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