The Huffington Post just can’t conceal its disdain for chain restaurants.  Detailing the latest effort to bring low-calorie food to one popular chain restaurants, the unnamed HuffPo writer (Margo Wootan-is that you?) has trouble concealing his cynicism for The Cheesecake Factory’s new “SkinnyLicious” menu which includes 50 dishes under 590 calories and includes more vegetables on the plate and cuts sodium levels (unnecessarily it now appears). 

This should be a good news story and the restaurant should be applauded for adding these healthy options to their menus.  But these efforts by the food industry are rarely praised. Instead, the HuffPo writer pokes fun at the restaurant and offers these helpful hints:

1) The restaurant is named in honor of cheesecake, a famously fatty dish — anyone that goes there for a healthy meal is woefully misguided.
2) A good way for the Cheesecake Factory to reduce calories is to cut down on its massive serving size, rather than re-jiggering dishes.
3) Skinnylicious is the worst name ever. If you want a hamburger, get a hamburger. If you want a SkinnyLicious hamburger, you shouldn’t be surprised if your dining companion laughs at you.
4) If you really want to lose weight, don’t go out to eat. If you choose to go out to eat, don’t rely on restaurants to guide you toward appropriate food choices based on lame-sounding marketing gimmicks. 

On point one:  Going by this logic, McDonald’s shouldn’t offer salads, grilled chicken salads, yogurt, apples and oatmeal.  And they should just chuck the new healthier Happy Meal which features apple slices, less fries, and skim milk (it has even been praised by the First Lady!).  I mean, according to the HuffPo writer, anyone who goes to McDonald’s for a healthy meal is “woefully misguided,” so why should these restaurants even offer the healthy options? 

On point two:  While The Cheesecake Factory might serve large portions, their SkinnyLicious servings are much smaller-as the HuffPo writer clearly wants.  This new menu provides customers more choice-order a larger portion of the regular menu or a smaller portion off the new menu.  The choice to make a healthy decision is the consumers.  People who want a 1,700 calorie lunch (like the First Lady’s Shake Shack lunch a month ago) are free to make that decision.  But the concepts of individual choice and personal responsibility always trips up the food nannies. 

On point three:  Apparently, food nannies now object to restaurant marketing terms.  The HuffPo writer also seems weirdly concerned that diners might be “made fun of” for ordering off the healthy menu.  What’s great about these expanded menus is that groups of people with different food needs can all eat at the same place.  My husband (who was blessed with a hamster-on-a-wheel-like metabolism) can order any gut-buster meal he desires while I (perpetually dieting) usually choose a smaller, healthier meal.  Of course, if you’re still in High School (like the HuffPo writer), you might be concerned about such things as your dining companions poking fun of you.  But for adults, this seems a silly concern. 

And on point four:  It’s interesting that the author of this article says “don’t rely on restaurants to guide you toward appropriate food choices” yet these same food nannies are often critical of restaurants that don’t post calorie information-the same information that helps “guide you toward appropriate food choices.

The Cheesecake Factory should be applauded for adding these items to their menu.  I’m not sure they’re reacting to market forces or to the near constant complaints from the food nannies.  Time will tell; if these new skinny meals sell, they’ll stay on the menu and people will have more options.  If not, they’ll slowly disappear.

Hopefully, the cheesecake will always be on the menu!