Are Calorie Counts on Restaurant Menus Making Meals Healthier?

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By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 4, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Was your New Year's resolution to devour healthier? Try ordering a precocious added paper point astatine your favourite concatenation restaurant, alternatively of a long-time favorite.

That's due to the fact that newer dishes served by ample edifice chains thin to incorporate less calories present that menus indispensable database the calorie contented of each items.

New probe finds that paper items introduced aft calorie labeling went into effect successful 2018 contained astir 25% less calories connected mean compared to dishes introduced earlier labeling.

"The nationwide rollout of these calorie labels appeared to punctual restaurants to present lower-calorie items to their menus," said pb idiosyncratic Anna Grummon, a probe chap successful nutrition astatine the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

A proviso of the U.S. Affordable Care Act requires that edifice chains with 20 oregon much U.S. locations indispensable station the calorie contented of prepared foods connected menus alongside the item's price, researchers said successful inheritance notes.

Prior probe has recovered that radical eating retired person chopped their calories somewhat -- 4% to 6% connected mean -- successful effect to the caller labeling, according to the paper.

But it hasn't been wide however the edifice manufacture responded to the labeling requirement, successful presumption of shaking up their menus and offering lower-calorie options.

For this study, Grummon and her colleagues analyzed the calories of much than 35,300 paper items sold astatine 59 ample concatenation restaurants successful the United States betwixt 2012 and 2019. The chains included specified names arsenic Qdoba, Chipotle, Burger King, IHOP, Dunkin Donuts and KFC, she said.

The researchers recovered that restaurants didn't alteration their look for existing paper items successful the look of calorie labeling. Dishes that had been connected the paper beforehand had the aforesaid calorie contented going forward, according to the survey published Dec. 30 successful JAMA Network Open.

That didn't astonishment Connie Diekman, a nutrient and nutrition advisor successful St. Louis and erstwhile president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She said there's small unit connected restaurants to alteration the contented and the spirit of their perpetually fashionable offerings.

Continued

"Much of that, successful my mind, is owed to the information that radical are acquainted with the quick-serve oregon fast-food restaurants," Diekman said. "They cognize what they like. They spot what they order. Therefore, they're blessed with what's determination and they're going to bargain it nary substance what the calorie statement says."

But caller dishes offered aft paper labeling went into effect tended to incorporate an mean 113 less calories, oregon astir 25% less, than the calories of foods introduced earlier the requirement, the researchers reported.

"That suggests the labeling instrumentality is perchance starring to consumers having much lower-calorie options," Grummon said.

All told, the findings are encouraging to Diekman, who sees it arsenic restaurants dilatory guiding their patrons toward a healthier diet.

"They're going to dilatory present it to the consumer," Diekman said of healthier nutrient options. "That's exciting, due to the fact that they're not trying to unit it down people's throats. They're going to locomotion with the user and assistance them change.

"Behavior alteration is simply a process. It's not an overhaul. They haven't jumped successful and tried to scare the consumer, but astatine the aforesaid clip they've recognized their accidental and their responsibility," she continued.

Grummon believes that galore folks eating retired are utilizing the calorie information.

"I bash deliberation that the transparency provided by the calorie labels is truly adjuvant to consumers," Grummon said. "These labels are giving consumers accusation astir foods they mightiness privation to bid that was not casual to entree earlier the law. Folks tin determine however they privation to usage that accusation to conscionable their wellness goals."

People who privation to devour retired successful a healthier mode should reappraisal a restaurant's paper online beforehand and find a fistful of items that look yummy and are lower-calorie, Diekman said. That way, you'll beryllium alert of the much nutritious options disposable to you erstwhile you spot your order.

You should look, successful particular, for paper items marked "new item" oregon "seasonal option," since this survey indicates those are much apt to beryllium little successful calories, Diekman said.

"View it arsenic a process. I'm going to effort it today, spot however I similar it, and past I'll determine if the adjacent clip I privation to effort different caller point oregon spell backmost to my favorite," Diekman said.

Continued

She added that it's good not to overthink the calorie contented of your edifice repast if you dine retired infrequently.

Once successful a while, it's OK to take a higher-calorie point than you would usually eat, Diekman said. "The problem, of course, is erstwhile we bash this each azygous day," she said.

More information

MenuStat has calorie and nutrition information from astir 100 concatenation restaurants.

SOURCES: Anna Grummon, PhD, probe fellow, nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Connie Diekman, RD, nutrient and nutrition consultant, St. Louis, and erstwhile president, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; JAMA Network Open, Dec. 30, 2021

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