Eating Out

Recently my family and I ate at a Portillos restaurant and could not get nutritional information from the restaurant or through our Calorie King book.  This is important to us as my 8 year old son is a diabetic and requires carb counts to formulate his insuling intake for each of his meals.  Proper insulin intake is necessary for his long-term health, but also to ensure he doesn't have high or low numbers which could result in seizures.  Since I couldn't get the nutritional facts I submitted the following directly to Portillos:

 

Why doesn't Portillos contribute their nutritional facts to book publishing companies like Calorie King or make them available at their restaurants? Or is it determined location by location? I ask as many people, especially diabetics, rely on the information so they can adjust their insulin when eating out. Almost every fast food type restaurant complies in one of the above forms. We were at the Portillos on North Avenue in Villa Park and were shocked when we asked for the nutritional sheet and were told that they didn't have one. So not only could I not look up the carbs in Calorie King, the restaurant didn't have one either and I couldn't properly advise my 8 year old diabetic son. Unfortunately we won't be able to eat there again. I told that locations manager this and also mentioned that I was mentioning this as many diabetic families respond to restaurants the same way, 'boycotting'. Thanks.

 

Portillos sent the following response to my inquiry:

Thank you for your E-mail.  The requirement to provide nutritional information is a constantly changing area of government regulations. At the current time, state and federal law requires labeling of those items sold as retail grocery.  Items sold at restaurants are exempt.  

We continue to watch this area so we can remain in compliance.  However, at this time, the information you seek is unavailable and we are unable to comply with your request.  Portillo's is a privately held business, with a limited number of stores.  We do not franchise our restaurants.  The cost of testing to obtain nutritional information and keeping such information current and correct is prohibitive.  While we manufacture some of our products, we source many products from multiple suppliers with varying specifications.  This fluctuation in purchasing would create the need for prolonged and repeated testing making it extremely difficult to generate a concise and accurate report on the nutritional values of all of our menu items.  We appreciate having the opportunity to explain.

 

 

Needless to say their answer is unacceptable as it is all driven by money.  This frustrates me and wish it was required by law.  Thank you for listening.

Wojofour, I think that u had ever right to e-mail them and tell them what u think. But some resturant's  say it is all about money and thing to do with the health of your son and other people's health.

I think I would email them back and say:

"Thank you for your response, but my family and I will never eat at your restaurant again since you have no regard for people's health issues.  I also will be letting the diabetic community know of your choices".

In this day and age, there is no excuse for their position, money or not.  Many people have health issues, besides diabetes, that need to know nutrituional information.

I really don't mean to start a fight here and I hope that we can keep this conversation friendly. I prefaced my post this way because I am going to disagree with you. I find the restaurants stance very acceptable. While I, and probably every other diabetic, can certainly relate to your story, I think it may be a little too far to "boycott" the restaurant. It is very difficult to carb count "blind" but with plenty of experience it becomes very easy. As a diabetic for over 15 years, I can list the amount of carbs in almost everyone of my favorite dishes. I would say that most likely almost all diabetics have this ability (or whatever you want to call it) over a period of a few years. If your son is newly diagnosed, I would absolutely agree with your frustration and I would say that it is probably a good idea to avoid eating out at places that do not have nutritional information until you and he become more comfortable with carb counting and the way his body reacts to certain foods. But in my opinion, it would be rash to cross off a restaurant completely just because of the lack of this information.

Personally, when I move to an area I like to eat at small, local restaurants. Sadly, almost all of these restaurants do not have information (in fact, I cannot think of one). However, I have gotten to a point where I am comfortable in my ability to guesstimate the carbs I am eating and how they will affect my blood sugar. 

I cannot really speak for or against Portillos, as I am really not familiar with the restaurant at all.

It is really tough to see how diabetics (especially Type One) are kind of thrown under the rug in society. Life is not really designed for diabetes, but you can make it work. With an easy-going attitude and a little flexibility I seem to make anything work out. I hope you can do the same, Wojo, eventually, because you might be crossing out a lot of restaurants otherwise.

[quote user="Dan"]

I really don't mean to start a fight here and I hope that we can keep this conversation friendly. I prefaced my post this way because I am going to disagree with you. I find the restaurants stance very acceptable. While I, and probably every other diabetic, can certainly relate to your story, I think it may be a little too far to "boycott" the restaurant. It is very difficult to carb count "blind" but with plenty of experience it becomes very easy. As a diabetic for over 15 years, I can list the amount of carbs in almost everyone of my favorite dishes. I would say that most likely almost all diabetics have this ability (or whatever you want to call it) over a period of a few years. If your son is newly diagnosed, I would absolutely agree with your frustration and I would say that it is probably a good idea to avoid eating out at places that do not have nutritional information until you and he become more comfortable with carb counting and the way his body reacts to certain foods. But in my opinion, it would be rash to cross off a restaurant completely just because of the lack of this information.

Personally, when I move to an area I like to eat at small, local restaurants. Sadly, almost all of these restaurants do not have information (in fact, I cannot think of one). However, I have gotten to a point where I am comfortable in my ability to guesstimate the carbs I am eating and how they will affect my blood sugar. 

I cannot really speak for or against Portillos, as I am really not familiar with the restaurant at all.

It is really tough to see how diabetics (especially Type One) are kind of thrown under the rug in society. Life is not really designed for diabetes, but you can make it work. With an easy-going attitude and a little flexibility I seem to make anything work out. I hope you can do the same, Wojo, eventually, because you might be crossing out a lot of restaurants otherwise.

[/quote]

amen!

I support what Dan says. Every Type 1 needs to learn to estimate carb counts when reliable information is not available. Your son may be newly diagnosed, but you and he need to learn how to do the estimating. There's only one way to learn, and that's by trial and error. Be prepared to make mistakes and to correct for them.

Tom

Dan - I appreciate your position, after all, we are all entitled to one.  And I agree with you that life isn't designed for diabetics and that you need to be easy-going and flexible.  You'd go crazy if you weren't.  In fact my kids go to a catholic school and we have no nurses guiding us through his care at school.  I'd say I have to be pretty easy-going and flexible to help make that work. 

However, in this day and age, there is no excuse for this retaurants position.  They are a chain throughout the midwest and if their competitors can do it, so should they.  If nothing else, their response could have been structured differently so as not to come across so cold.  After all, many people have health issues and need this information, not just diabeticis.

To imply I should get better at "blind" carb counting is a bit unfair in your spirit of keeping the response friendly.  My 8 year old has had diabetes for six months to your 15 years.   To expect him to be guessing it unrealistic.  At some point we are all new at this and if more of us took a stand, restaurants would have to work with us, not against us.

Contrary to your experiences, I have found smaller run restaurants, many are family owned to be the most helpful in providing nutritional content, specifically carbs.  Our local pizza place was more than happy to figure out carbs for us so my 8 year old child can get pizza every Wednesday, just like his classmates.

I guess when it comes down to it, there are those of us that help pave the way for a better future and I intend to be one of those people.

Thank you for your support.

I agree with what's been said here. Restaurants have the right, because it is expensive, to choose to display carb counts. I also agree that, at least in the beginning, you may choose to eat only "foods with labels" or from boxes with labels until you feel more confident in estimating.

If you're using CalorieKing, or a carb counting guide, I would suggest you use a breakdown method or pick a meal and portion size equivalent from a listed restaurant. That's what I do. So, for example, if I'm eating a buffalo chicken salad (salad + chicken tenders) - they may not have Bennigan's listed, but they might have TGI Friday's or Buffalo Wings n Rings or something, who have pretty much the same meal listed. I have found this to work fairly well for me.

If you're using the breakdown method (breaking down a meal into its constituent parts then determining each part separately and adding the total) - I would build in a contingency when dosing yourself for insulin of about 20-30%. (So, if I guess that the meal is about 70g of carbs, I will only dose for ~ 50 if I want to be safe) - this might mean a postprandial BG of ~ 230 - but that's better than a low or not dosing at all.

Otherwise, I appreciate your concerns - there are restaurants out there who do carry carb counts - and I would tell you to seek those out!

You might have missed this from my last post. 

"If your son is newly diagnosed, I would absolutely agree with your frustration and I would say that it is probably a good idea to avoid eating out at places that do not have nutritional information until you and he become more comfortable with carb counting and the way his body reacts to certain foods. But in my opinion, it would be rash to cross off a restaurant completely just because of the lack of this information."

Also, I said I cannot speak for the restaurant itself. If they are a chain then i understand your frustration even more.

I think we agree on most aspects of your post. The thing that I disagreed with was the boycott part. As I understood your original post, you were boycotting a restaurant on a lack of nutritional information and in fact, sharing this information so we would all do the same. I am simply offering you my solution, you can take it or leave it. I believe a few other people also offered ideas about comparing foods to other restaurants, or comparing to foods they eat at home (as I suggested). These are all our ideas of making you and your son's life a little easier and you do not have to accept them. 

Please, do not get hostile with me. This is a nice community and we are all here to share ideas. You expressed your view point and I expressed mine. Not once did I ascertain or imply anything about you personally. I really was not trying to pick any kind of a fight, I just wanted to express how I have gone about dealing with restaurants that don't have nutritional information. 

There was one thing that really did send me the wrong way about your post though and that was the fact that your kids school had no nurses. That doesn't seem right whatsoever. Is this their primary school, or a weekend religious school. It seems odd that a primary school can go without some kind of healthcare professional at the school. I am not very familiar with private school though, but I would look into that. 

Hi,

This may be of some help. Though you need to be careful when researching using the Internet, there are sites that will have some nutritional information on various restaurants and give you a better idea of what the carb counts are. I searched for "portillos""and "nutritional information" and got a few hits. Try these:

http://www.myfitnesspal.com/nutrition-facts-calories/portillos

http://www.thedailyplate.com/nutrition-calories/food/portillos

Not to throw fuel on the fire but, the exorbitant money making is far from the restaurants when it comes to Diabetes, Type 1 or 2. Ever looked at a test strip and wondered why they cost too much? Ever tried to find out what it costs to make one of these (they sell for about a dollar each)? Don't waste your time. It's a closely kept secret (some in the know say it is 2-4 cents). That's not the only example either. Diabetes has a whole cottage industry around it and the funds generated are mind-boggling...

I now return the train to its original set of rails ;  )

Joe

Joe, 

I would love to open this as a topic on a different post. I try and bring this up all the time, and people tend to shoot me down. But I agree with you fully.

Dan

The Cracker Barrel is a very popular restaurant chain in the east, and perhaps elsewhere. There are hundreds of these restaurants. There is no listing for them in my Calorie King, but there should be for a chain of this size. I posted this online and a friend said there is an online site for Cracker Barrel. I found it and made a copy of their menu with carb counts. I carry that with me when we travel south, where so many of those restaurants are located. There is also a special section in the restaurant menu with a page devoted to low carb meals. I usually order from that page, there are some good choices listed. 

Mmmm... Cracker Barrel! I was staying at a hotel in Virginia last month which had one right next door. They now give the net carbs for the items in their low carb section of the menu in the store. They also have one of the best sugar free syrups I've tasted in a while. My wife and I had some great meals there.

 

Joe

There are plenty of other restaurants that do have nutrition information. Simply go elsewhere.

Look on-line for it. It is not usually found in the restaurant.

Panera Bread for example has it on-line. McDonald's has it on the back of the tray liners.

 

 

I think it's very smart to let them know that this will prevent you from being able to eat there again.  It's a huge pet peeve of mine.  However, I'm boggled that the lack of information surprised you!!!  Other than big chains, I assume most restaurants won't offer nutritional information.  Even the chains that have nutritional info rarely HAVE the guide when I ask for it, and I end up accessing their site with my iphone to get it.

One of the saddest day-to-day changes that came about when I was diagnosed was a reduction in trips to locally owned restaurants.  :(  And when I do go to them, my choices are limited to stuff that's easy to count... no combination foods.  *sigh*

Oh, and WTF is up with a huge chain like TIGFriday's not having nutritional info???  There are a couple states that require nutritional info now, right?  Do they just avoid opening locations in those states or something?

[quote user="Dan"] As a diabetic for over 15 years, I can list the amount of carbs in almost everyone of my favorite dishes. I would say that most likely almost all diabetics have this ability (or whatever you want to call it)[/quote]

Ala Spidey Sense:

Carbey sense?

Diabey sense?

:p

[quote user="MJ"]I agree with what's been said here. Restaurants have the right, because it is expensive, to choose to display carb counts. I also agree that, at least in the beginning, you may choose to eat only "foods with labels" or from boxes with labels until you feel more confident in estimating.[/quote]

I agree with this.  The first month or two, I was all about LABELS LABELS LABELS.  And for restaurants, BIG CHAINS, BIG CHAINS, BIG CHAINS.

I'm a much bigger fan of "real food" and local dining but, especially in the beginning, diabetes requires sacrifices... Which SUCKS, SUCKS, SUCKS!

And the reality is that the restaurants that offer nutritional information are the ones that are marketing to and serving type 1 diabetics best... so that's where most of my dining out money goes.  That's capitalism, for better or worse.  You vote with your dollar.  Which, often, should include telling the "loser" business why they didn't get your dollar!!!

Yes, look on line for it. It's much more cost effective for a restaurant or chain to put the info on line, where they can keep it up to date without having to pay the cost of printing every time they need to change something. Frankly, I would question the validity of the printed info if they don't have the same info on line.

Tom

What I've done when going to restaurants that dont have nutrition fact list is look up each ingredient in the calorie king. They might not be exactly the same but it works just fine =]