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DARDEN RESTAURANTS PUTS NUTRITION FACTS ONLINE
Just how many calories are there in that Olive Garden chicken and shrimp carbonara you want for dinner?
The answer is not for the faint of heart: 1,440 calories, 88 grams of fat and 3,000 milligrams of sodium.
A wide array of nutritional information about menu items at Orlando-based Darden Restaurants is now available with just a few clicks of a mouse.
Beginning early this year, Darden began to publish those numbers on its Web sites for Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze, and LongHorn Steakhouse. The Capital Grille, an upscale steakhouse acquired by Darden in 2007, is not included.
Previously, Darden had only revealed the nutritional details online for Seasons 52, which specializes in light fare, and for specially labeled healthy items at Olive Garden and Red Lobster.
Those offerings include Red Lobster's half-portion of grilled or broiled salmon, with 265 calories (less than two Cheddar Bay biscuits at 150 calories each), 8.5 grams of fat and 320 milligrams of sodium.
Darden spokesman Rich Jeffers said the company began posting the more general information Jan. 6. Darden already had to provide the analysis at restaurants in a few spots around the country such asNew York City andin King County, Wash., both of which passed laws requiring it.
"Once we had this information pulled together, putting it online was a way to get it in front of guests who wanted it," Jeffers said.
The company did not announce to the general public that it was putting the numbers online.
"We haven't seen a whole lot of people coming in asking for it," Jeffers said. "We've made it available, but we're still working hard to get a national standard out there so we can provide what's agreed upon. That might look a little different than what we have up there right now."
Darden has been lobbying in Washington for an industry-supported bill called the LEAN act calling for calorie counts to be posted in restaurants in a standardized way around the country.
Nutritionists hailed the news of the online information as a step forward for health-savvy consumers.
"I'm thrilled," said Susan Mitchell, a Winter Park-based dietitian and nutritionist. "It's easy to just on your own schedule, whenever you feel like it, log on, check it out and know what the nutrition information is."
Of course, not everyone may want to know that the parmesan-crusted chicken they're about to chow down on at LongHorn Steakhouse has 1,180 calories and 69 grams of fat.
But Orlando-based dietitian and nutritionist Tara Gidus said diners should pay attention to the numbers. And as more restaurants in general make such information available, it could result in healthier changes, she said.
"The more transparent they become in terms of what's in their food, as consumers see, they're going to start demanding healthier things," she said. "Hopefully then, that will be a win-win for everybody."
Sandra Pedicini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5240.
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