Should we Put Nutrition Facts on Restaurant Menus?

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Public Health Authorities are propsing to mandate that restaurants and fast food chains be required to post nutrition facts information (including calories and sodium) on their menus/menu boards. The reasoning behind this is that the growing number of Canadians being diagnosed with chronic diseases like Type 2 Diabetes and Hypertension can be linked to increased intake of restaurant and fast food meals. We all know that restaurant is usually laden with salt and fat; not to mention the large serving sizes leading us to overeat.

Sodium is a big player here as about 75% of our salt intake comes from ready made and processed foods rather than salt added in cooking and at the table.

Although I see a number of benefits to mandating that restaurants provide nutrition information on their menus I also see a number of cons.

Pros:

  • Canadians can make more informed decisions –> this is especially beneficial for those of us who eat out multiple times per week/day
  • By using nutrition information we can compare different foods and choose which times we want to indulge (save room for that warm chocolate brownie with vanilla gelato) and which times we want to choose the healthier option
  • Nutrition facts and ingredient lists are a great way to compare foods at the grocery store and choose the healthier option, so why not do it at White Spot?
  • If restaurants have to post nutrition information on menus they may be more inclined to provide healthier options
  • The United Sates is already doing it so why not us?

Cons:

  • Restaurants could start making lower calorie lower salt foods but at what cost? Would they start using artificial sweeteners and hydrogenated margarines to bring down sugar and fat content?
  • Could putting calories on menus promote eating disorders as people who weren’t thinking about calories start to be inundated with calorie content of foods?
  • What about those people who use menu labeling to choose foods higher in fat and calorie content (think of Man vs Food and youtube videos that promote eating large serving sizes of unhealthy foods)
  • Is my food going to be more expensive because restaurants have to spend money on gathering nutritional data on all menu items?
  • And finally, if I have finally decided to take a break from the kitchen and go out for a nice meal do I really have to feel guilty about wanting to finish off my rare restaurant meal with a big piece of Ultimate Chocolate Cake by knowing it has 1159 calories?

I think that in theory putting nutrition information on menus is a good thing especially if it makes consumers think twice about eating a cheeseburger twice in one week. I also think that it is beneficial for those who eat out several times a day/week because they can make more informed decisions (if they care to look at the nutrition information). I just worry about some of the negative effects and costs associated with this nutrition labeling. I think the information should be available in the form of brochures or pamphlets available somewhere within the restaurant/fast food joint for those that care to look.

What do you think about the idea of nutrition labelling? Would you want to see it in your favourite restaurants?

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Chocolate Protein Bars

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like granola bars, they are a quick and delicious snack. The problem with most purchased granola bars is that they are usually filled with sugar and not much fibre or protein. This recipe I modified from a website my friend showed me called No Meat Athlete, check it out for some other great ideas for making these granola bars your own.

These bars are packed with protein and low in sugar. They are really dense but you can’t even taste the beans in them. I recommend you try them and jazz up the recipe according to your likes.

I sprinkled hemp and chia seeds over the granola bars because I forgot to mix them it, it was tasty this way or you could just add both into the dry mix.

Remember when you are buying granola bars look for ones that have less than 8g of sugar and 4g of fibre or more.

Protein Bars

CHOCOLATE PROTEIN BARS

Ingredients:

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1.5 cups oats
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cups chocolate chips
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
some hemp and chia seeds
1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped

Protein Bars

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. In a food processor puree the black beans, adding the banana, peanut butter, honey, and vanilla extract
3. Transfer the bean mixture into a large bowl and add in the dry ingredients (oats, cinnamon, salt, cocoa powder, whole wheat flour, chocolate chips and coconut), the mixture was thick
4. Press the granola bars into a greased 9×13′ pan
5. Sprinkle chia and hemp seeds over the granola bars
6. Bake for 20min
7. While the bars are baking melt chocolate in a double boiler
8. When the bars are finished baking pour melted chocolate over top and spread evenly
9. Let cool and cut into 12 pieces

Enjoy as a pre or post workout snack or just as a snack on their own

Chicken Quinoa Stew

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This creamy hearty weeknight stew is easy to make and loaded with protein rich quinoa, vegetables, milk and chicken (a real full meal deal!).

I adapted the recipe from the BC Dairy Association 2013 Milk Calendar

Ingredients:

1 TBSP virgin coconut oil
3 carrots sliced
1 yellow pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
thyme, basic, chili powder and curry powder to taste
1 tsp curry pastesalt and pepper
1lb boneless skinless chicken
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups milk, heated to steaming
1 cup frozen vegetable mix (mine had peas, corn, carrots and soy beans)
1 cup drained canned diced tomatoes
1/4 cup grated grana padano or reggiano cheese

Method:

  1. In a large pot melt coconut oil over medium high heat, sautee carrots, peppers, onions, garlic, spices, curry paste, salt and pepper for 5min
  2. Add chicken and cook stirring for 3 minutes or until white all over, stir in quinoa
  3. Whisk flour into broth and stir into pot, bring to simmer, stirring often, stir in hot milk
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer stirring once for about 20min or until quinoa is almost tender
  5. Stir in thawed mixed vegetables, simmer uncovered, stirring often for 5min or until chicken is no longer pink inside
  6. Stir in half of the parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste
  7. sprinkle with remaining parmesan if desired

Try to experiment with this recipe, you can substitute some or all of the milk with coconut milk or soy milk, add your favourite veggies, change up the spices (that’s why I didn’t put amounts next to them) make it your own.