My husband and I were traveling this weekend to attend a family friend’s wedding. We had a layover in Philadelphia, and while there we stopped into an Au Bon Pain. You’ve probably been in one before – soups, salads, sandwiches, coffee, and bakery goods. In this one, the self-serve bakery case took up one entire wall. As I walked into the store, I saw a woman standing in front of the case. She wheeled her suitcase from one end to the other and back again no fewer than three times. Three times! She hadn’t selected anything, and honestly she looked a little frantic. She looked at me, wide-eyed, pointing to the case, and said, “They put the CALORIE COUNTS next to each item! By every one of them! I started out by the cookies and worked my way down there and by the end of the case I was at pastries that were more than 500 calories each! I came back to the cookies but now I think maybe I should just leave. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to just leave. I’ve gotta get out of here.” And she left!
Restaurant industry executives, if you are wondering if prominently posting calorie counts on menu items will help people make healthier choices, I offer this as Exhibit A.
Are there times when a 500 calorie pastry is a worth-every-yummy-morsel indulgence? I certainly think so! But I’m intrigued by how more transparent communication of nutrition information can help to influence consumer behavior. Menu labeling? Bring it on.