NPR reported today that surgeon-distributed restaurant discount cards are becoming super popular for patients who’ve gotten gastric bypass surgery. They point out that the Weight Loss Surgery cardsâ€“which earn customers smaller portion sizes at a discount in some restaurantsâ€“aren’t necessarily encouraging the best dietary choices in patients who’ve already struggled with controlling their diet and weight. While this is probably true, we also couldn’t help wondering: Shouldn’t doctors be handing the cards out to everyone?
It’s not that we want cheap access to chain restaurant buffetsâ€“or think that’s going to solve our country’s obesity problem. But the benefits of the cards (Cracker Barrel, for example, allows card-holders to order from their kids menu or order lunch-sized portions at dinner) do sound like a pretty good way to get people eating proper portion size.
Now, I don’t believe that every time you see a person with a BMI outside of the “healthy” range, it’s because they’re overeating or under-exercising. But just go to any chain restaurant and it’s obvious that our country has a seriously warped conception of proper portion size. New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tried to tackle the issue by banning massive sodasâ€“a less-than-popular tactic that has yet to be proven effective in reducing obesity rates. Meanwhile, those of us who just want to eat a dinner that doesn’t contain more than our daily recommended value of calories, sugar and fat are stuck ordering side salads, or wishing for the willpower to only eat a quarter of what comes out on our plates.
Eating fast food and going out to restaurants isn’t going to get America healthy, but so long as many Americans are eating out regularly, why not make it possible to order a healthier portion size at a fair price? According to the CDC, the average restaurant meal is four times bigger now than it was in the 1950s. Their suggestions include splitting meals with a friend or saving half your food to eat later. But for anyone who struggles with self-control in the face of a plate of french-fries (i.e. EVERYONE), or diners who don’t/can’t split meals with others, the remaining option is to hope that there are smaller items on the menu, or not order a “real meal” at all.