Menu calories – who cares?

photo of Starbucks drinks by poolie via Creative Commons

photo of Starbucks drinks by poolie via Creative Commons

We were going to an evening event and needed to stay awake after traveling all day.  Solution: an espresso at a nearby Starbucks.  It was moderately busy, but it took a good 10 minutes to get a simple espresso because the people ahead of us were getting smoothies and lattes.  Giant 24+ oz concoctions of sugar, cream, syrups and the occasional trace of coffee.  A 600 calorie iced salted caramel mocha, extra caramel sauce please.  A 500 calorie strawberry frappuccino.  A 600 calorie java chip frappuccino.  In fact no one else in the place was ordering plain old coffee.  It was all blended drinks.  The cashier acted surprised when we ordered just an espresso (5 calories).

Frankly I’m not faulting Starbucks.  The company is selling stuff people clearly want to buy.  I’m wondering about the point of the calorie counts listed on the menus.  Starbucks is actually ahead of the game on that.  Calorie info is readily available on the website and on menu boards.  So does anyone care?  Were these customers (mostly women) drinking giant calorie bombs for dinner?  Or for dessert?  Or just because?  Most of them didn’t need the extra calories, but apparently that wasn’t an issue in their decisions.  Maybe they drank diet soda earlier in the day and felt they needed a reward for their virtuous behavior.

The alleged point of all this menu calorie clutter is that it will force encourage customers to only buy low calorie items at restaurants.  Ultimately the goal is that everyone will buy nothing but low cal items and obesity will disappear.  Unfortunately, there’s absolutely NO EVIDENCE that that works.  None, zero.  But wishful thinking on the part of food police and bureaucrats is always enough to justify more regulations.  Now restaurant menus will have an added layer of clutter and customers will learn to tune it all out, while they order what they want.  These mandates will have no effect on obesity.  None whatsoever.

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