The Confusing Quest for Healthy Lunch


Cato’s Alan Reynolds, speaking for angry and selfish cranks everywhere, offers the view that “Health care is cheap: Eat less fat and more veggies, take a daily walk, quit smoking, and drink a little wine with some nuts.”

Well, life is a bit more complicated than that. What’s more, Monica Potts observes that the Affordable Care Act contains a useful provision requiring restaurants with more than 20 locations to do calorie labeling on their menus. No doubt libertarians like Reynolds will denounce this effort to help make it easier for people to eat healthy as a dire infringement on liberty, but as Potts says “The ingredients and recipes used from restaurant on the same items are mysteries, so it’s hard to judge what you’re eating. Now, hopefully, it’ll be easier.”

And it’s true. We’ve got a Cosi on the same block as our office here at CAP. And salad suggests itself as a healthy lunch option. A salad with some grilled chicken should also give you some protein to get you through the afternoon without getting hungry. But unless you go to the Cosi website to look up the facts it’s really kind of a crapshoot. The Shanghai Chicken Salad has 313 calories by the Bombay Chicken Salad has 481. The Grilled Chicken Caesar has 621. The Sesame Ginger Chicken sandwich (480 calories) would actually be a lower calorie option than two of the chicken-equipped salads. And of course the only reason I know that is that Cosi posts its nutrional information online, which a lot of places don’t do.

I’m not really sure how much difference menu labeling will make on a macro scale—it doesn’t accomplish anything unless the will is there, and if you’re determined to eat healthier the lack of menu labeling is hardly an insuperable obstacle—but it does seem like it’ll be helpful to some people. At a minimum, I’m looking forward to it personally.