Last night I had to make a run to the supermarket right around dinnertime. Stomach rumbling, I decided to eat first, then shop, but as I browsed the salad bar, soup station, and prepared food section, I became increasingly frustrated. There were ingredient cards for some, but not most of the items, and none had nutrition facts info. I wound up waiting until I got home because I just didn’t want to play the guessing game.
Apparently the folks at Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) feel the same way. The nonprofit watchdog group conducted a review, which found that of the 36 retail chains that sell prepared foods, most employ registered dietitians, but they don’t offer visible nutrition info. CSPI believes that if chain restaurants have to disclose calorie facts, it’s only fair that supermarkets and convenience stores that sell prepared foods should be required to do the same.
I’m actually more interested in ingredients than calories myself, but I’d really love all the info that’s available on a packaged food label so I know exactly what I’m spending my dollars on and what I’m putting in my body. Access to that info online, from restaurant chains like Panera Bread and Au Bon Pain, has helped me guide my clients’ choices.
For example, Chipotle’s nutrition calculator helped me show one of my clients that ordering a burrito bowl with brown rice, fajita veggies, black beans, salsa, guacamole, and lettuce instead of her usual burrito with no rice, black beans, fajita veggies, salsa, sour cream, and cheese saved about 200 calories, slashed 12 grams of saturated fat, and added 7 grams of filling fiber.
A national survey commissioned by CSPI revealed that more than 80 percent of Americans are in favor of having calorie information for grocery store restaurant-style foods such as rotisserie chicken, sub sandwiches, and soups. What do you think? How often do you buy dinner at your local supermarket? Does having this info at places like Starbucks or restaurants change how you order? Please share you thoughts @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.