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Dining out: It's a whole new game

Going to a restaurant these days includes calorie-counting and trans-fat measuring before you order. How much is that hoagie in the window?

February 22, 2010|Jeannine Stein
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)

You can dig into that dulce de leche cheesecake, but you can no longer hide. With a California law now mandating that chain restaurants provide customers with nutrition information, consumers are coming face to face with the calorie, fat and sodium content of their favorite restaurant dishes — numbers they've only been able to guess at before.

That dulce de leche delight from the Cheesecake Factory? 1,010 calories per slice. A surely more prudent fajita fiesta pollo salad at Red Robin? A cool 1,000 calories with 62 grams of total fat and 1,408 milligrams of sodium — almost the recommended day's worth of salt for a middle-aged person.

We went to restaurants to see what the new law is revealing about the food (and, yes, of course, so that we could shriek at the numbers). And we did some digging to see what this new age of restaurant-transparency may mean. The numbers are eye-opening, for sure: Who would imagine a big slice of pie in many cases could do less calorie damage than a salad — a virtuous salad? But it's still an open question how we will respond to the nutrition news — as our interviews with diners and a survey of the science revealed. See Page 7.

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