Menu changes may impact what you eat

I went to a popular sandwich shop the other day, and was ready to order my usual sandwich when I noticed the calories listed beside the product on the menu board. I was stunned at how many calories were in my favorite sandwich. I usually skip the cheese and the mayo, but even with those missing items the calorie count was still going to be high. Did I really want to consume 1000 calories at lunch?

It’s a question many of us will be asking ourselves more and more as restaurants begin to post nutritional contents on the menu board. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA estimates Americans consume an estimated one-third of all their calories on foods made outside the home. The FDA thinks consumers are unaware of or inaccurately estimate the calories in food, so a rule will require restaurants or food businesses that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations display certain nutritional information to consumers. Even drive-through boards will be required to post this information. Other nutritional facts like fat, carbs, and sodium will need to be made available upon request.

The FDA plans to issue final rules by the end of 2011, but many states are preempting the federal legislation and passing their own. With so many states already passing rules, sometimes tougher than the federal one, restaurants are making the changes to all their locations now.

Before the disclosure can become law, restaurants are announcing changes to their menu adding healthier options. Just this week, 19 restaurant chains said they’re adding healthier options to the children’s menu as part of an initiative by the National Restaurant Association.

The restaurants include: Au Bon Pain, Bonefish Grill, Burger King, Burgerville, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Chevys Fresh Mex, Chili’s Grill & Bar, Corner Bakery Cafe, Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, El Pollo Loco, Friendly’s, IHOP, Joe’s Crab Shack, Outback Steakhouse, Silver Diner, Sizzler, T-Bones Great American Eatery and zpizza.

“Kids LiveWell” is a first-of-its-kind voluntary initiative that shows the restaurant industry’s commitment to offering healthful menu items for children, with a focus on increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy, and limiting unhealthy fats, sugars and sodium,” said Anita Jones-Mueller, MPH, and founder of Healthy Dining.

The restaurant will offer an entrée, side, and beverage with 600 calories or less, offer an individual item with 200 calories or less, and display or make available upon request the nutrition information for one of the healthy food choices.

Calories will be another thing to consider beside the price of an item. What will be the price you pay for eating that item? You will no longer be able to have blinders on. The cold hard facts will be staring you in the face.