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Counting Calories in California

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Calories can be deceptive. Take Macaroni Grill’s scallops and spinach salad — sounds healthy, no? At least until you learn that it packs a whopping 1,270 calories, more than half the daily recommended amount.

menu.jpgThe phrase "Holy Cannoli!" has never been more appropriate. For a long time — too long — restaurants have offered dishes without listing any nutritional information. To an extent, this is no big deal. If you’re trying to eat healthy, you’ll spring for the yogurt and fruit plate and avoid the four-cheese triple-decker lasagna. It’s just common sense. But with modern tastes and food technology being what they are these days, there are a lot of scallops and spinach salads out there — meals that sound healthy, but are really just gussied-up gut bombs trying to cheat their way into “healthy” territory.

Legislators and advocacy groups are fighting for more transparency. The state of California enacted its calorie labeling law last month, and already it’s having an unexpected consequence — a consequence that supermarkets should pay attention to.

Actually, when you think about it, maybe it’s not so “unexpected”: Rather than follow the rule to a note and list calorie counts on all menu items, restaurants are getting ahead of the game by reducing the amount of calories in many of their dishes. It’s not hard to do — skip the sour cream, pull off some of that extra cheese, and give the deep fryer a rest, for starters.

And the results can be, well, dramatic. That scallops and spinach salad? Macaroni Grill was able to knock that down to 390 calories. Just goes to show how important it is to be upfront with consumers — and how attainable this can be for the companies serving them. (photo courtesy of Editor B)

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