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Will calories being posted on restaurant menu boards help you?
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Elaine Magee, MPH, RD posted:
I know that my decision on what to order in a restaurant is influenced somewhat by the amount of calories I see posted next to it on the menu board or menu. (Granted I usually have a good idea what the lighter choices are.)


ObamaCare-mandated a requirement that chain restaurants post calorie counts on menu boards.


I know this isn't a good think for people who are in the throws of an eating disorder or have a tendency toward restrictive eating. So my question is...do you think this will help the people it is intended to help--people who are overweight or obese?
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Elizabeth_WebMD_Staff responded:
For those trying to lose weight or make healthier choices, I think this is a great idea.

For those who have no idea of how many calories or grams of fat or salt a "healthy salad" may contain, ordering a salad because they think they are making a healthy choice, I think this is great.

So, I do think, with the information posted front and center, most will look toward the best option.

I know when icons or calories are listed I tend order a better choice for myself.

Now, please don't ask me how many calories the seared tuna club sandwich with bacon, tomato, lettuce and aioli I had for lunch had. No nutrition info posted at the restaurant.
Elizabeth
To eat is a necessity, to eat intelligently is an art. La Rochefoucauld
 
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erice_ma responded:
I am not sure whether it will help.

A couple of years ago, I read Wendy's well thought out position stand on the matter. Basically, they said they would comply if a ruling came into play and they were concerned for their patrons' health. However, their main point was that in most cases, a number on a board is not necessarily correct or meaningful.

Any given option may be purchased with customizations: e.g., No mayo. It may even be served with an option that the user may use some or all of: Nuts/Dressing for a salad. Many foods are sold in combos. In short, the amount of math necessary to figure out what is actually taken is not simple and most people probably aren't really going to take the effort to put it all together, and they are likely to put the wrong numbers together.

Furthermore, Wendy's argued that while calories are important to many consumers others want to know about saturated fat, fat grams, carb grams, sugar grams, trans fat, sodium, fiber, etc.

So, Wendy's argued that the more sensible solution was to provide the numbers on a separate sheet (which they were already doing) with all the common numbers that people wanted broken down to the details that numbers on a board could not provide.

I agree with them.

On the other hand, I do suspect numbers on the boards will result in some reformulations. There will probably be some items that the restauranteurs will realize the posted values affect sales and they may rework them to get under certain thresholds. In that way, it might help by creating a general downward trend in the more extreme calorie/sodium numbers.
 
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Elaine Magee, MPH, RD responded:
Calorie counts in 40 fast food and sit-down restaurants in 3 states were examined recently, according to a press release from the Journal of the Medical Association July, 19, 2011.

They found that overall the stated calories of the items on the menus were accurate, but the researchers found substantial inaccuracy for some individual foods--there was higher calories than stated for some foods with lower calorie content, particularly in sit-down restaurants.

The researchers suggest that this difference in real and stated calories may be due to poor quality control of portion size.
 
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CandidClarissa responded:
If I had a real craving for an item I would order it anyway but might save part of it for later if the calorie count was high.
In deciding between 2 entrees I would choose the one with the lower carlorie count
I think that restaurants may alter the calorie count of some meals and still be able to keep the taste quality high.
 
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Anon_77886 responded:
I live in NY where we have had this for years. It definitely helps me. When I crave a snack and see that it has 1/3 of my daily allowance of calories, I can't get it. But I am not an extreme case.

Mostly though, I think it helps because the restaurants will be forced to offer lower calorie options, even if it's just offering smaller portion sizes, which will be a HUGE leap in getting people to eat better. It will be an anti-supersize movement. The supersize portions have only been around for about 2 decades. We can start to reverse that trend.

This happened with Starbucks. Before they were required to post the calories, I was familiar with the calorie counts and was frustrated that all their muffins/treats were about 500 calories. They now serve mini version for a lot things, like mini-donuts for maybe 120 calories. That is a snack I can manage. I think this will really help people.

I actually became loyal fan of Wendy's after they posted their calories because they have a decent amount of lower calorie options.


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