Knowing what you’re ordering

Ezra Klein has a post up about “healthy” ordering, and how it’s harder than it looks:

A lot of people don’t know this, but the health-care law included a provision forcing chain restaurants to post calorie information next to the items on their menus (and on their menu boards, and on their drive-in-menus). I don’t know that it’ll make America any thinner. It’s possible that people will actually try and choose the highest-calorie items, thinking that’s the best value for their money. But at least people will know what they’re ordering.

It reminded me of an ongoing argument I have with my wife.  She had a longstanding habit of ordering restaurant salads.  The problem is that although they seem “healthy”, they really aren’t.  For instance, at Claim Jumper, where I’ve admittedly never been, here’s a salad:

Name: Chopped Cobb Salad
Calories: 1829
Sodium (mg): 3104
Price: $13.50
Menu Description: “Grilled chicken, Danish bleu cheese crumbles, avocado, bacon, diced egg, tomatoes with homemade Danish bleu cheese dressing.”

Try to get past the fact that the salad has almost a full day’s calories in it.  Get a load of that sodium.  It’s 1.5 to 2 times the recommended daily amount.  I hope you weren’t planning on eating anything else today.  Or tomorrow.

Alternatively, you could order this:

Name: The Widow Maker
Calories: 1594
Sodium (mg): 2920
Price: $10.95
Menu Description: “Applewood smoked bacon, hand-battered onion rings, avocado, double-thick Tillamook cheddar, mayo and red relish.”

Look at that thing.  It’s named appropriately.  But at least it’s less sodium and less calories than the salad.

I’m not suggesting you order either (although that burger has me salivating).  Nor am I stating that salads at restaurants can’t be healthy.  The point is you don’t always know.

(h/t Greg Morabito)

UPDATE: Edited for clarity

UPDATE #2: Matt Yglesias says something similar, based on an article from Rachel Saslow.

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