Should the menu of the day die?  The 'typical Spanish' nutritional nonsense

The closest historical precedent we have for the daily menu dates back to pre-constitutional times. It was in the mid-1960s when Franco’s Ministry of Information and Tourism created the ‘tourist menu’. The direct ascending of the current compendium of dishes with a closed price was decreed for the month of August 1964, with Spain in full tourist expansion, to attract even more travelers to our borders.

Although Ferran Adrià ventured to say something like “Spaniards, the menu of the day is dead “ – betting on other preparations – the truth is that he is more alive than ever. Most hospitality establishments continue to offer for a fixed price a first, a second, bread, drink and dessert or coffee –And according to the custom of the establishment or how you have fallen in favor with the waiter, a ‘digestive’ shot-.

Although there is nothing more ‘typical Spanish’ than this set of preparations, whose price varies between 9 and 14 euros depending on the premises, the truth is that it is a nutritional nonsense. In general, calories that are consumed in a daily menu far exceed what a diner needs to spend the day; without taking into account that the rations do not take into account the needs energetics of the person sitting at the table.

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Considering that the hoteliers bet on the ‘walk or not walk, big horse’ when configuring these dishes – and that the Spanish have no problem in leaving the premises ‘rolling’ -, the abuse of this preconstitutional invention could affect health of restaurant customers.

More calories than necessary

The average day menu is designed to provide between 500 to 700 kcal. “In general terms, due to currently having little active jobs, most of the population does not have such high energy needs to need preparations as caloric as the daily menu has traditionally been “, he explains to El Confidencial Iñaki Elío, director of the Degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics at the European University of the Atlantic.

The nutritionist points out that, depending on the choices of dishes that are made and the physical activity of the person, “it is easy to consume more calories than necessary”. In addition, preparations are often consumed with a high amount of salt, sugar and unhealthy fats, “which promote overweight, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

In fact, Elio considers that much of the population could perfectly consume a single dish from the menu to satisfy their energy needs, “especially of the first ones who tend to have more vegetable options”. In this sense, it highlights that in many non-European cultures, there is no concept of first and second.

Reformulate the menu of the day

Although the preconstitutional predecessor is the closest we have, the menu of the day could have been evolving since the 19th century. Pérez Galdós already mentioned in one of his ‘National Episodes’ of 1900 how some inns offered various meals at a fixed and inexpensive price.

This is how the ‘typical Spanish’ menu of the day has evolved

Julio Martín Alarcón

The nutritionist considers that they should offer menus with lower calorie alternatives, which included more vegetable dishes and healthier cooking. “In this way, each person could choose the option that best suits their personal needs, taking into account the physical activity that they are going to do during the day,” he proposes. “It is important to avoid being tempted by foods rich in salt, fat, sugar and alcoholic or sugary beverages,” he adds.

Regarding collective catering, the nutritionist It is difficult to contemplate different servings per person: “In my opinion it is better that the diner knows how to make a good choice between the meals that are offered; and at the same time being aware of your feeling of satiety and not consuming more if you are no longer hungry ”. In this sense it indicates that some restaurants have started to include nutritional composition of the preparations: “For example, a standard serving of cake of three chocolates provides 523 kcal, a 330 ml beer provides 150 kcal or a 125 ml glass of wine provides 98 kcal”.

For her part, the president of restaurants of the Valencia Hospitality Business Federation, Nuria Sanz, recognizes that generally this set of preparations with a closed price is oversized. “When people go to eat a menu of the day at restaurants, many times you can not eat it whole. I have enough to eat a plate ”, he points out to this newspaper.

“This is done because the real cost is unknown of what is being lost through food. Maybe with one of those menus you can feed three people ”, says the representative of the Valencian restaurants.

Today’s menu. (FSB)

“Many hoteliers see that the place next door has the menu at 10 euros, so they put it at 9.50 and more food. AND they don’t know they are losing money”. Precisely for an economic issue, Sanz recommends lowering the portions of the dishes.

For the hotelier, a menu according to the needs of the diner should be composed of a starter that is a small appetizer, a second as a main course and a dessert. Something that would be better for the needs of diners and the pockets of restaurateurs.

The Valencian representative maintains that this oversize of the dishes is decreasing as the guild professionalizes: “Now everyone comes from school and that is basic. But the classic thing about people who don’t know, or about the hotelier who hires untrained people, is that mistake ”.

Similarly, the nutritionist also believes that each time “It is easier to find lower calorie options within these menus or even the possibility of choosing a single dish ”.

How to choose well in a daily menu

While we wait to be able to eat a menu of the day without leaving the premises bloated, the dietician-nutritionist Sandra Sumalla gives some advice to El Confidencial: “In general terms, for first courses the best option is that vegetables predominate, whether in the form of a salad, grilled, sauteed, steam, etc ”.

The also dean of Health Sciences of the European University of the Atlantic recommends for the latter “a protein food so it could be to base of legumes, eggs, fish or meat. In this case, the way it is cooked is especially important, griddles and the oven would be the best options, and on the other hand, preparations with high-fat sauces that greatly increase the caloric value of the dish should be avoided “.

For the dessert, Sumalla considers that the best options are the plain yogurt or seasonal fruit. In this sense, it highlights that the desserts that are usually offered as cakes “are very rich in sugar and fat, so they are not the best options, since the consumption of these foods is related to a higher risk of developing obesity and diabetes, especially” .

And above all, he insists that “You have to avoid alcohol and sugary drinks”. If all these simple changes are followed, “we can reduce the menu from 500 to 1,000 kcal,” Sumalla concludes.

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