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Know Thy Calories

As part of the new health care legislation (Affordable Care Act), the FDA has now published it's 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 (!!!)
This is so much fun...I could go on and on but you get the point.

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.


gradydoctor said…
Love this synopsis of such an important topic! Thanks!
Unknown said…
Really loved the graph of calories. I simply was not knowing so much. Thanks for explaining so beautiful
tracy said…
You forgot the "Bloomin' Onion"! :) i think it comes in around 2290 cals.
tracy said…
i just don't understand how people can NOT know how many calories are in the junk we eat...
There's another trick out there. Labels will post calories/serving, but the suggested serving sizes are appropriate for a gerbil.
Anonymous said…
This is so great to know. I am glad the calories will be posted because most people greatly underestimate how much they are eating. When you realize how little food you really need it is a shocker!
Toni Brayer, MD said…
Michael Kirsch, M.D.: Yes it is important to look at the top box that says how many servings per container. You can then judge how many calories you are eating. If you eat the whole box...well there you go.

For restaurant calorie posting, it will all ready be per serving. It's always good to share.
KM said…
Most of the chain restaurants were already posting this info. last year. Weight Watchers also had a book out last year called Dining Out Companion where you can look up this info. on these restaurants.

Had also seen this video on reading a label this morning.
KM said…
Another important thing to watch out for on labels is Palm Oil. It is put in food you buy at grocery stores as well as chain or fast food restaurants. Cardiologists are saying it s very bad for your heart. It is an additive that the smell as well as when it is eaten can make you hungrier causing carvings to eat more food and calories.
skin care said…
Calories are the most important part of the diet. It is very important to know how many calories you take in daily. So it is very informative post. I regularly keep a check on the diet which I take in.
BrainDame said…
This will help because it raises awareness, pulls back the curtain-hopefully it will lead to the next even more crucial step which is all around healthier eating. I agree that calories are critical to maintaining weight but even there-not all calories are equal...500 calories of Big Mac are not even the same as 500 calories of a freshly made hamburger from hormone free beef on fresh bread with local tomato, lettuce, etc.
Great post! Kepp them coming!
Buy Resveratrol said…
Understanding how calories work can help in your diet goals. This way, you still have the energy to do your daily activities. At the same time, you are losing weight. Good post.
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