Dieting

FDA: Chain Restaurants Must Publish Menu Calorie Counts

| by Toni Brayer MD

As part of the new health care legislation (Affordable Care Act), the FDA has now published its guidelines for restaurants to inform consumers of the calorie counts of food.  It establishes requirements for nutrition labeling of standard menu items for chain restaurants and chain vending machine operators. This is important because Americans now consume an estimated 1/3 of their total calories on foods prepared outside the home. Consumers are generally unaware of the number of calories they consume from these foods, and being overweight or obese increases the risk of a number of diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer.

Here is what the guidelines say:

  • Restaurants with 20 or more locations must disclose the number of calories in each standard menu item on menus and menu boards. (19 chain locations?  You get a pass.  Daily specials also get a pass)
  • Additional written nutrition information must be available to consumers upon request. (Total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium sugars, carbs, fiber, protein etc etc)
  • The menu must say that the additional nutritional information is available
  • The calorie information (per serving or per food item) for self-service items must be on a sign adjacent to each food item.
  • Chain vending machines must also show the calories for articles of food.

Here's a preview of what you will find:

  • 576 calories  -   Big Mac without cheese
  • 320 calories  -   One slice thin crust pepperoni Domino's Pizza  (who only eats one slice?)
  • 670 calories  -   Medium cappuccino blast shake Baskin Robbins
  • 280 calories  -   4 oz scoop Baskin Robbins Pralines 'n Cream Ice Cream  (extra for the cone)
  • 217 calories  -   1/2 cup Chinese chicken salad from Fresh Choice  (who eats 1/2 cup?)
  • 142 calories  -   1/2 cup zesty Italian spaghetti from Fresh Choice
  • 1890 cals      -    Nachos Grande from Chevys Fresh Mex
  • 380 calories  -    Carnitas soft taco from Chevys Fresh Mex
  • 1320 cals      -    Fajita burrito from Chevys Fresh Mex
  • 1060 cals      -    Either a kids cheese quesadilla or a kiddie cheeseburger from Chevys (!!!)

 

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The jury is out whether this type of information will have an impact on the diets of Americans but at least people can't say they didn't know.