I used to order the Chicken Crispers meal at Chili’s on a regular basis.
Before we had children, my husband and I would eat out frequently. Chili’s was a favorite of ours, and given that my eating habits were once more like that of a five-year-old than the 20-something I was before I started running and eating more healthfully, chicken fingers were always a draw.
In case you’re not familiar with this “entree” at Chili’s, allow me to describe it for you: questionable chicken parts are liberally coated with bread crumbs and then deep-fried in hot oil and placed atop a heaping helping of seasoned French fries. Half an ear of corn accompanies the dish, but blech, corn is a vegetable, so I never touched it.
I stopped eating Chicken Crispers over seven years ago, but I’d like to think I wouldn’t have eaten them at all had I known exactly how many calories, how much fat, and how many carbs were in the meal. A few year’s back, while doing research for an article on unhealthy restaurant meals, I came across this article in Men’s Health, which listed the Chicken Crispers meal as one of the “20 Worst Foods in America.”
99 grams of fat
240 grams of carbs
(Incidentally, Men’s Health also named Chili’s “Pepper Pals Country-Fried Chicken Crispers with Ranch Dressing and Homestyle Fries” as their Worst Kids Meal of 2009: 1,110 calories, 82 grams of fat, and 56 grams of carbohydrates. To give you an idea of just how nutritionally unsound this meal is, the average preschooler needs between 1,200 and 1,600 calories a day. )
If I hadn’t been doing research, however, I never would have known exactly how unhealthy a meal I was actually eating. Of course, I had no delusions that my Chicken Crispers meal equated to an organic red leaf lettuce salad with sliced free-range, grass-fed chicken, but I can honestly say that if I had seen the nutritional information printed beside the meal on the Chili’s menu, I would have chosen something else.
And now, thanks to the new health reform law, it seems that we’ll actually have this information available to us when we dine out.
According to this article, chain restaurants with more than 20 outlets must print calorie counts on their menus, along with the recommended number of calories a person should take in each day. Vending machines will have calorie counts posted too.
Research done in test cities (New York and Seattle) has shown that menu labeling works in helping people make smarter choices when eating in restaurants. And that’s a good thing, considering the growing obesity problem we have in this country.
What do you think about menu labeling? Would it make you think twice before ordering a high-calorie meal, or do you think that any attempt to change health-related behavior in the U.S. is an impossibility?