Although many fast food restaurants already list calorie counts on their menu boards, soon it will be a requirement for all chain restaurants that have 20 or more locations. That’s good news for those of us who want to watch our caloric intake, but bad news for people who haven’t a clue as to how many calories are really in that slice of pizza.
And we can thank the Affordable Care Act for it all. Although it was passed in 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration just finalized the nutritional information rules for restaurants and vending machines this week. Of course many chains saw the handwriting on the wall, and proactively started displaying their nutritional information several years ago. However others (like the Cheesecake Factory) hid their collective heads in the sand and hoped it would go away.
But it didn’t.
To help customers put it all into context, the following statement will also have to be included in the menu: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” That may make folks think twice about ordering that 1,600 calorie lunch. Perhaps it will even cause restaurants to pare down the portions and give diners a real serving size. To refresh your memory that’s 4 ounces of fish or chicken, not 8 or 12.
We shall see. It would be a nice, but realistically the super-size portions are a cash cow for restaurants. If they cut the portions they also have to cut the price point, and they don’t want to do that.
Also included in the new regulations are food facilities in entertainment venue chains such as movie theaters and amusement parks. Now you will really know ho many calories are in that tub of buttered popcorn (you better sit down for that one).
The menu labeling final rule also requires covered establishments to provide nutrition information about total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and protein in menu items.
And coming in two years — nutritional labeling on vending machines. People who own or operate 20 or more vending machines will also be required to provide nutritional information.
It’s a step in the right direction, and frankly one that is long overdue. We deserve to know what we are eating!