Speaking of fructose…

Well, not exactly fructose, but calories certainly, sugar and fat in particular.  Cheesecake Factory plans to offer a “Skinnylicious” menu of entrees, appetizers and desserts.  The entrees will be 590 calories or less, the appetizers 490 or less.  No word on the desserts yet.  This will be a separate menu, so right away we have a problem.  The people who want fewer calories or smaller portions have to ASK for the different menu.  If you’re with a group, how does that end up looking?  Like you’re weird, no fun, a health food nut.

I have nothing against healthier menu options or portion control.  I’m completely opposed to shunting those choices to a “healthy menu” ghetto.  It completely discourages normal people from making those choices, or even noticing them.  Motivated calorie counters will notice, but those people are in the minority.

What Cheesecake Factory needs to do is cut back on portions across the board.  Do we really need ginormous burgers surrounded by a week’s worth of french fried potatoes at one meal?  I don’t need any official calorie count posted to know most of the regular menu features portions that are excessive.  The cheesecake pieces alone could stand as a meal’s worth of calories.  Not the healthiest meal, but if it’s a once-a-year indulgence, so what?  At least you aren’t piling dessert on top of a huge entree.

The Cheesecake Factory doesn’t have nutrition information listed on the website.  If the federal calorie count law ever goes into effect, that will obviously change.  Meanwhile, you can take your chances with this list, supposedly taken from a booklet listing the calories posted in Washington State, where calorie counts are mandatory.  I’d take unofficial Cheesecake Factory calorie counts with a grain of salt, so to speak, since they do not officially come from the company, and could be manipulated by any Food Police crank with an axe to grind.

If I were running Cheesecake Factory:

  • all the portions would be downsized
  • no more than one high fat/fried item per entree
  • all french fries and similar sides would be optional, on special request, not on autopilot
  • cheesecake slices would be thinner.  They can be cut in half, or the entire cheesecake can be smaller, so the portions are smaller
  • get rid of the even more awful “Weight Management Salad” category.  Honestly, way to label modest eating as disagreeable and unpleasant.

I expect the Skinnylicious Menu (awful name) will attract some customers.  I also suspect many people who order a “healthy” entree off this menu will reward themselves with a piece of cheesecake for dessert, since they deserve it after being “good”.  There is actual research showing that restaurant customers engage in this kind of reward behavior after ordering something perceived as healthy.  Truly, if you’re trying to control calories, an entree that’s roughly 600 calories is all you need at a meal.

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