David Kessler, the Harvard-trained doctor, lawyer, medical school dean and former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration who won billions against the tobacco industry during the Clinton years, has trained his razor-sharp focus on the restaurant industry and how they are making us overeat.
Yeah, you read that right: restaurants intentionally add things to their foods to make them craveable, so that you truly can’t eat just one. I’m sure you’re not completely surprised to learn this, but you may be surprised as to the extent.
In Kessler’s new book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, he describes dumpster-diving to rescue ingredient labels from popular chains like Chili’s, Bennigans, etc. to see just what is inside those mouthwatering dishes like Southwestern Eggrolls or Boneless Shanghai Wings. Ironically, it was Kessler when he was with the FDA who instituted the labeling of restaurant foods that travel across state lines to begin with, but as a citizen when he politely asked to see those labels he was flatly denied.
Dumpsters, though, are open to anyone who cares to take the plunge. We’re lucky Kessler decided to do just that.
The labels showed the foods were bathed in salt, fat and sugars, beyond what a diner might expect by reading the menu, Kessler said. The ingredient list for Southwestern Eggrolls mentioned salt eight different times; sugars showed up five times. The “egg rolls,” which are deep-fried in fat, contain chicken that has been chopped up like meatloaf to give it a “melt in the mouth” quality that also makes it faster to eat. By the time a diner has finished this appetizer, she has consumed 910 calories, 57 grams of fat and 1,960 milligrams of sodium. Yikes!
This is a salt-fat-sugar one-two-three-pow that make you crave more and more of it, leading to overeating.
Don’t assume that this practice is limited to Chili’s; you should assume that EVERY item on a restaurant menu contains more fat, salt, and sugar than it would if you were to re-create the dish at home. That’s how they make things so tasty, after all.
It’s a pretty good argument for cooking at home more often, where you have full control over what you and your family ingest. Not to mention the economics of eating out… Maybe this is why cookbook sales are up 9% while sales of other types of books are down?