The Real Reason You Should Avoid Free Bar Snacks At Restaurants

Free bowls of peanuts, pretzels, and popcorn have become common fixtures in restaurants and pubs and understandably so. After all, what would a bar scene be without some sort of crunchy, salty goodness to go with that IPA or whiskey neat? 

A simple yet brilliant concept that helps restaurant and bar owners sell more drinks, the advent of the free bar snack has a few possible origin stories (via Mel Magazine). One belief is that the idea came out of Chicago when a bar owner running for office was looking for a way to attract more business — and votes. The result? A free hot oyster with each drink. An alternate story is that the first free bar snacks started at the landmark New Orleans eatery, La Bourse de Maspero, in the French Quarter. Patrons could fill up a plate with free meat pies, soups, and oyster patties — after they ordered a drink. And the free hard-boiled egg bar snack? That allegedly began in France when the country was experiencing an egg surplus at the same time establishments serving alcohol were also required to serve food. Though free bar snacks have become a beloved fixture, there are reasons you should think twice before you grab that next fistful of free Chex Mix.

Why you should be wary of free bar snacks

According to experts at The Healthy, a main reason you should avoid free bar snacks is because you have no clue if the server is bringing you fresh snacks or recycled snacks that previous patrons left over. This means that you are potentially eating all the germs that were on the hands of everyone who dug in. Maybe some of those people didn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Yikes!

Besides the possibility of consuming gross germs, consider what else is in those free bar snacks before you begin mindlessly munching. Like the calorie content, for one. For example, a nut has roughly seven calories. Toss back 50 or more nuts and that can quickly add up to over 350 calories (via Food Network). A 2-ounce portion of potato chips? This can add up to over 300 calories. And if your favorite bar snack is free pretzels, you should know that a portion of pretzels can add up to half your daily limit of sodium. Bars tend to serve salty foods like pretzels and Chex Mix because, after all, the more salt you eat, the more drinks you'll buy (via Livestrong).

Bottom line: The next time the bar serves up a bowl of free snacks, think twice before digging in. It may be worth it to forgo the freebies and order from the menu instead.