When President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, chain restaurants were put on notice that restaurant nutrition info would have to be provided to help consumers make healthy and informed decision when eating out.
While this was not great news for a lot of established chains, it has broadened the menus of most national chains, and given diners more and healthier options.
The federal law requires that all restaurants with 20 or more locations provide calorie information on menus and menu boards – including drive-through menu boards. These large chains would also be required to have literature with more in depth nutritional information such as total fat, sodium, and cholesterol.
Restaurant Menu Calories
For some restaurants, nutritional stats can be a marketing tool, but for the majority of chains, these little McNuggets of information can shed an alarming light on what is being served. To deflect some of the heat that calorie counts can bring, many of these traditionally unhealthy restaurants now offer meals that balance the calorie totals on their menus.
McDonald’s, with items like the Big Mac and the McRib, sporting 540 and 500 calories respectively, also offer a grilled chicken sandwich with 350 calories and a premium Caesar salad with grilled chicken with 190.
Burger King’s Whopper tips the scale at 670 calories, but diners can always order a Tendergrill Garden Salad with a waistline friendlier 230 calories.
One piece of Pizza Hut’s Meat Lovers Pan Pizza has 330 calories, but pizza lovers do have the option of getting a Fin ‘n Delicious Pizza, which all have less than 180 calories a slice.
Restaurant Nutrition Info on the Go
This push to get nutritional information for everything we eat has also gone digital. Diners don’t have to worry if they’ve forgotten to read the nutritional information when they order. Patrons can check it any time, because, as it is for most things today, there’s an app for that.
The Apple App Store has an app for keeping track of nutritional facts of menu items at popular restaurants across the country. It has the information for about 250 eateries, and over 60,000 items.
For people who are too busy to make it to a restaurant for lunch, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 also covers vending machines. The act requires that calorie information be included on the vending machines of companies that own more than 20. So now everyone will know the calorie totals for a lunch of Toastchee crackers – 220 calories – and a 2 ounce Snickers bar – 280 calories.
It remains to be seen if the glut of nutritional information makes a real difference in the fight against obesity in the United States, but in theory, an informed shopper makes better decisions, so hopefully it is a supersized success.
Author: Brendan Purves