FDA Menu Labeling Guidelines: Get Ready for Informed Ingest!

Click to View WZZM Take 5 Segment

Will menu calories make you pause and consider? View this WZZM Take 5 Segment to find out.

How Are the Rules Broader?

We knew that the ruling would apply to chain restaurants with 20 or more outlets like Panera, Subway and Starbucks in addition to movie theaters. What we didn’t know was that it would be expanded to include amusement parks and other entertainment venues, pizza and ice cream parlors, doughnut shops, vending machines and prepared, single service, carry-out foods sold in grocery or super stores. Examples of the later include the pasta salad, Panini sandwich or items sold out of buffet that you might pick up for lunch or dinner.  The biggest FDA maneuver was the ruling that alcohol calories must also be included on any written menu.  This move was applauded by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as all liquid calories should be trackable.  While restaurants have a year to implement these new requirements, vending companies were granted two.

Will It Work?

Results from Starbucks say yes but will is impact our waist lines? Stanford University researchers compared Starbucks sales in New York City, pre and post mandatory calorie labeling and found that calories fell 6 percent. This amounts to 232 calories per transaction instead of 247 calories. An ERS funded Carnegie Melon study showed that participants were 48 percent more likely to choose a lower calorie sandwich when nutrition information was posted resulting in 50 fewer calories. At Mercy Health Saint Mary’s when we post menu labeling it also includes price incentives which doubles the incentive when it hits your waist line and pocket-book simultaneously.

According to an analysis conducted by the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) each additional meal eaten away from home increases the average adult intake by 134 calories and the average teen intake by 108 more calories. This could easily result in a conservative 3-5 pound weight gain over the course of a year, if other things like physical activity remain the same.

You Decide.

If you are at the MacDonald’s drive through window and read the following menu board listing will you change your mind based on the calorie listing?

  • 520 calories, Quarter pounder with cheese
  • 430 calories, Double cheeseburger
  • 290 calories, Cheeseburger
  • 510 calories, Large Fry
  • 380 calories, Medium Fry
  • 230 calories, Small Fry

One-third of our calories are consumed outside of the home and many of these are low in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Calories and the nutritional quality of a food often go hand in hand meaning the higher the calories the greater the terrible trio: sodium, sugar and fat. Time will tell if posting calorie information on menu boards also positively impacts our blood pressure, sugar and lipid levels.

However, menu signage alone is not going to fix America’s growing weight problem. We need to be accountable and develop better all-around health habits including adequate rest, eating 5 fruits and vegetables per day rather than “a couple,” cooking from scratch more often than not, drinking more water and getting regular exercise.

Today’s “In Your Cart” WZZM, Take 5 segment reviews Tuesday’s FDA final ruling that requires chain restaurants with 20 or more outlets, movie theaters and pizza parlors to list calories on their menus. Did the FDA over scale their definition of the menu labeling law? Will taking the guess-work out of the menu, enable you to tighten up your belt and make more informed choices on what you ingest? Send me your comments!

Categories: Nutrition & Wellness

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