Calorie Counts on Menus Probably Won’t Make a Difference

by Andie Mitchell on September 18, 2012

Coming off our recent calorie discussion, this news seemed pertinent. McDonald’s recently announced that it will continue displaying the calorie count of every item on its menu. Because of new federal regulations, soon most chains will have to do the same. Presumably, the new law is being put in place to educate consumers and allow them to make healthier decisions.

In reality, I don’t know that it will make much of a difference. It’s certainly possible to be health and calorie conscious and eat fast food. All of the chains offer salads as well as lighter versions of sandwiches. While I was losing weight in college, I had a brief love affair with the Wendy’s taco salad. I also developed a hobby of looking up nutrition info for my favorite menu items at places like Burger King and Taco Bell. I figured out ways to work them into my plan.

The people who are interested in making healthier decisions are probably the same one’s who look up the nutrition info online. I dare say that most people heading to McDonald’s aren’t as concerned with how many calories they’re consuming.

The NPD group, a market research firm, did a study recently on the effect of calorie counts posted on menus. The study compared the orders of people both when calorie counts were available and when they weren’t. The difference between the two was small. On average the group ordered 1,021 calories worth of food when the calories were not posted. They ordered an average of 901 calories when they were. The study determined that most people who are going out to eat are looking to indulge and don’t pay too much attention to health.

When I hit up a chain that posts calories, I always take note and it certainly factors into my decision. But, I am also the type who finds it helpful to check nutrition information online before I go, so this doesn’t necessarily affect me.

When you go to chains where calorie counts are posted on the menu does it impact what you order? Also, what are some of your favorite healthier options at fast food places?

photo source: aka Kath

 

{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

Krissy September 18, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Yeah, I agree that the posted calories probably won’t make much difference. I certainly appreciate having that information easily available. But, the people who most need to be restricting their calories probably won’t pay any attention to it.

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Shelly September 19, 2012 at 12:00 am

I disagree. I think it will make a difference. Like a lot of people, usually if I find myself at a McDonalds or other fast food restaurant, it’s a time or energy issue, not a “oh boy, I want to go pig out issue.” Given that I’m there because I’m tired or because I’m short on time, having the calorie count listed is a big help and a big determinate of what I will choose. I doubt I’m the only American who deals with these same issues. It’s not that people don’t want to make better choices, but good habits can be sidetracked by life as can the best intentions. Every little bit helps. Snide comments about “those people” that just don’t care and simply want to indulge is a bit cynical. According to the study cited in this post, when calorie count is posted, people ordered 120 calories less. If you consider that if you cut only 100 calories a day, you’d lose 10 pounds a year, that doesn’t seem like such an insignificant amount.

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Cindy September 19, 2012 at 6:40 am

I don’t care how tired or short on time I am, I’m not going to stop at McDonald’s and order a Big Mac. Period. It is up to you to make the right food decisions. And there are PLENTY of healthier options out there better than McDonald’s or other similar fast food joints. These calorie counts are not going to make ANY difference for the people that SHOULD be looking at them. For the rest of us, it will just reinforce what we already know- that McDonald’s is horrible for you, and you shouldn’t eat there.

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Ana Maria September 19, 2012 at 8:11 am

I don’t know that this comment is quite fair. I think Shelly makes a reasonable argument. Of course McDonald’s isn’t good for you and of course it is better to make a quick healthy meal, but sometimes life just does happen. Calorie counts can help in those times.

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Erin K. September 19, 2012 at 9:13 am

Cindy,
I think it’s great that you have taken charge of your health and are in the habit of making great choices when it comes to food.

What I have noticed in my health journey is that I often know what I *ought* to do but what I actually end up doing is sometimes not the thing I ought to do. In the past five years I have started eating healthier and I am quite proud to say that I am now in the habit of walking three times a week. (A big deal for a recovering couch potato!) I have cut out soda and I now bring my lunch to work most of the time.

These habits took a lot of time to form in me. I went through ups and downs of doing the right thing and then reverting back to my old habits. Some days I find it easy to make good choices and other days I find it really difficult. I have discovered that the idea of making “right food decisions” is easy on paper but much more difficult in practice. Research* has shown that the way humans make choices is quite complicated and there are many factors to consider. (*For example, Dr. Sheena Iyengar’s book, “The Art of Choosing” which I highly recommend. http://sheenaiyengar.com/the-art-of-choosing/)

I have to be honest that I take some offense at your comment because I am one of “the people that SHOULD be looking at” the calorie counts and you’ve made some assumptions about me, implying that I am simply too lazy to choose differently. Like many people, I am in the midst of attempting to transform my old habits into new habits. This is a daily, sometimes hourly, process. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I succeed. But every day I wake up and have the choice to try again. Thank God for new days and fresh opportunities!

I work very close to a McDonald’s and I have to admit that I love their $1 unsweet iced tea. In the afternoons when I need a break I often run over there to grab myself a “treat” of an iced tea. Perhaps you have some opinions about my choice of drinking iced tea from McDonald’s but considering that my afternoon treat used to consist of snacking on processed food or a sugary (and expensive) coffee drink, I’m pretty sure my new choice of a $1 unsweet tea is a huge improvement.

However, there are times when I’ve had a particularly stressful day, or perhaps I’m hormonal, or perhaps I’m struggling with some other issue, and I look at the rest of the McDonald’s menu and the cookies or the burgers or the fries start calling my name.

On those days I wage a mental war and attempt to fight off the urge to purchase one of these things. One of the lies that I have to fight against is that one choice won’t matter; the idea that “it’s just one cookie” and in the whole scheme of things, it won’t affect my life if I have that cookie or not.

But now, I have a reminder. Right there, in black and white, the McDonald’s menu reminds me that one cookie has 160 calories.

Just the other day I went for my iced tea and this exact thing happened. I wanted a cookie. I REALLY wanted a cookie. I almost ordered a cookie. (Ok, actually, I almost ordered TWO cookies.) But when I saw the reminder that those two cookies would add 320 calories to my day, it was just the thing I needed to stop me from ordering them. I happily drove away with my $1 tea and said a small thank you to the calorie count on the menu.

One thing I have discovered in my own journey is that transforming my health has required many different kinds of changes, many different kinds of support, and many different choices (big and small). I have learned to not despise or diminish the small things because, just like termites can take down an entire structure by taking one little bite at a time, I will take down the stronghold of bad health in my life by making one little choice at a time.

I agree that, overall, having a calorie count on the McDonald’s menu isn’t going to turn around an obesity epidemic. It is not going to change the minds of those who have no interest in changing their habits. It isn’t anything earth shattering. However, it is a step in the right direction and it has made a difference for ME.

I really am happy for you that you are at a place where healthy choices come easily for you and I look forward to the day when they will be just as easy for me. I’m not there yet but every day I am making progress. Please remember that we are all different, we are all in process, we are all attempting to do the best we can, and some of us need a little more help than others.

Sincerely,
Erin

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Julie September 19, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Erin,
GOOD FOR YOU. I totally relate to your experiences. I don’t often eat out or buy snacks because I’m in the midst of my own weight-loss/health journey. But when I do, those calorie counts on the menu make my life so much easier. They take the stress away and help me make choices that are better for me. Why belittle those who struggle just because you don’t, Cindy?

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Meg September 19, 2012 at 1:12 pm

This was a beautifully written, thoughtful comment. Thank you for sharing it with us–it really helps illustrate why the change to the restaurant chain menus is a move in the right direction.

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Anne September 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

What an eloquent and well written response, Erin!! And as someone who JUST finished the weight loss portion of my lifestyle change (only the rest of life to keep it up, right?), I 100% agree that calorie counts helped me out tremendously. I would look up the nutrition information before going to to eat anywhere, making it a somewhat annoying process to even order. It will be MUCH easier when restaurants have nutrition information listed. Many, MANY people are also fooled into thinking something is healthy (think the grilled chicken sandwich…with gobs of mayo) when in fact it is not. Nutrition information will help that as well. Granted, there are people who don’t care about it, heck, sometimes people don’t NEED to know, because they eat McDonald’s once a year. But it will make a difference for a lot of us, myself included.

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Rachel September 19, 2012 at 9:57 am

Cindy -

Making the right food decisions is great, but to be honest your comment made me cringe a little. It just felt like you were making your choices look good by putting down the choices and decisions of someone else. Even if eating at McDonalds isn’t for you, implying that someone who makes chooses to eat there is not making the right food decisions is unfounded. I just wanted to put it out there that we should be working to build each other up and encourage one another to be healthy, not judging others and putting them down for making different choices than you do.

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Shelly September 19, 2012 at 10:03 am

Gee, judge much, Cindy? For the record, McDonald’s has great salads, and even Newman’s dressings. Not that this article is even about McDonalds particularly and neither was my comment. But by all means, make some sweeping generalizations about what ALL people should do and what they care and don’t care about, and whether the simple addition of extra information might help someone. Go ahead and ignore the fact that they already did the study and found that people ordered 120 calories less on average when the info was on the menu, feel free to get angry at all the fat folks and ignore the facts if that makes you feel more righteous.

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Katy September 19, 2012 at 11:33 am

It’s testimony to what a great community follows his blog that you comment, Cindy, seems so out of step.

I do get it-McD’s are not great for the planet or people-but as someone who eats 90% organic and is a healthy weight, I love visiting sometimes. Sometimes nothing hits the spit link those fries! I just order a kids meal. It’s about 500 kcal, so I don’t even have to feel bad about it.

I don’t like ‘nevers’ in my life. They’re unrealistic. 80/20 good to less good is much more likely to be sustainable.

That said, KFC just put calorie counts on their menu and when I realised NOTHING was below 700kcal, I walked away. I was on the way home from a festival, hungover as hell and desperately in need of carbs, but those numbers were so high I just couldn’t justify it.

It might work for some people. Every little helps, right?

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RBee September 22, 2012 at 7:13 pm

My job requires me to be on the road a lot, and honestly, it may seem easier just to swing by McD’s or some other fast food restaurant for lunch or a snack. Several years ago, I made a semi-habit of doing that, and I always felt tired the rest of the day no matter what I ordered–either it bogged me down, or wasn’t enough (like a salad). Today I pack my lunch to go, and some days it simply consists of a small container of almond butter and a banana, with some flax crackers, but it works for me. My lunch isn’ McD’s, but it’s always FAST, EASY, and (yay!) it’s HEALTHY.

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Kristin September 19, 2012 at 12:18 am

I live in Sweden where the calorie counts are already offered on all McDonalds products. When I first moved here and needed a quick meal when I was out, like a Big Mac, I was very surprised by the calorie counts. When the fries, burger and drink were all added together it was really much higher then I expected. Now if I ever need a quick meal and am only left with McDonalds as a choice I buy the child size meal which offers much more reasonable calorie and fat levels for an adult. The clearly labelled calorie counts really made me reconsider my choice and I think it will do the same for many Americans. I really believe it’s a small change that is long overdue!

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Melissa September 19, 2012 at 2:51 am

While I agree it won’t make much of a difference, I think it could bring awareness to people who hadn’t given it much thought and they might pick a 400 calorie burger over a 600 calorie burger. Every little bit helps!

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Heather@SugarDish(Me) September 19, 2012 at 4:12 am

My boyfriend has that freaky man metabolism that enables him love affairs with things like Triple Whoppers with cheese. He also has a very physical job. I am not so lucky. Because of that, though, I really appreciate the menus that DO post the calories so that I can make better choices when he calls and asks me to meet him for a quick weekday lunch. Seeing the numbers in front of my eyes also shames me out of things like a Chocolate Chip Frappe. Burger King has added some really great new salads and more recently, salad wraps! They are a great option for the days that you HAVE to find the drive thru.

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Anele @ Success Along the Weigh September 19, 2012 at 4:24 am

I can count on half of one hand how many times we go to fast food restaurants in a year so for me personally it won’t make a difference. (I’m one of the online looker uppers)

I think it might make 1 in 50 think twice or at least be more aware, not necessarily not order it. Maybe it’ll stop ‘em from ordering a double over a single? I mean I appreciate they’re doing that but I don’t think it’ll make much difference. :(

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Beth September 19, 2012 at 4:26 am

I think it will make a 100% difference for some. Like you, I always look up the nutritional information before I eat anywhere if it’s available. Being posted on the menu, I can see that it would just save a step for me in eating healthy. For people who don’t get what the shovel into their mouths, they still won’t care. To them 1000 calories probably doesn’t seem like that all that much because they haven’t done the research on what their body needs.
I think it will be most beneficial for those people who are just starting on their journey to being healthier. It will give them pause and that extra reminder that they don’t need the Big Mac, large fries and coke.

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Megan September 19, 2012 at 4:31 am

I like this post and the comments as it did change my viewpoint a bit :)

I have always had to watch my weight as my metabolism seems to be the slowest ever created :), however, because of that, I have been like you suggested: one who looks up her food calories/counts online. I appreciate that they will be more readily available now, but as one who has always watched it, I’m pretty much aware of most calories in most foods…generally speaking. I was one who thought “either you care, or you don’t. Changing camps on that, in regard to foods, is rare.”

Now, after reading, I see that isn’t the case. There are people who just weren’t aware and once seeing the calories, they do think twice. Sometimes I felt like I was the ONLY person who had to make sacrifices when going out, because A) I knew how many calories that small blizzard contained and B) I’m the only person who puts on 5 pounds just by looking too long at food. Everyone else here can eat whatever they want!

I do hope seeing the calories helps us think MORE about what we are feeding our children, more than anything. Fast food is a blessing sometimes FOR SURE, but I am sure, one of the biggest contributors to our childrens obesity issue, which is a whole ‘nother can of worms!

Thanks for helping us think and for such great opinions shared!

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Tara September 19, 2012 at 4:32 am

Actually, it made a difference for me this week! I found myself at a McDonalds while on an outing with my college age daughter, and we were both amazed that the counts were on the menu. She and I both made different choices based on those counts. I have also found myself doing that at restaurants like Panera. Even though I do not follow the best diet, I am striving to eat better. Having the calorie counts on the menu puts me one step closer to awareness of what I am putting in my body on a regular basis, something many of us need in our daily lives. People like me have to start somewhere!

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Carly September 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Good for you, Tara! I’m in the same boat. I want to lose weight for my wedding but have had horrible eating habits for my whole life. Using the calorie counts at restaurants helps me make little choices to eat better and be more conscious of what I’m putting in my body.

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Rebecca September 20, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Tara, I’m in the same boat! I’m fairly close to my “goal weight” (I don’t even like that term–I feel healthy at my current weight, and eat pretty well about 80% of the time, but like almost every woman out there I wish I could lose that last 5 pounds), but every time I go someplace where the calories are listed, I consider my choice more carefully. Sometimes, yep, I indulge in a full-fat frappucino at Starbucks, but much more often I choose the kid’s meal, the value size (usually the smallest size on the menu) or a salad instead. It helps me make an educated choice, and I’m frequently amazed at the calorie counts in certain foods!

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Gabe October 22, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I am 16. I have struggled with my weight. I have made better decisions to workout and eat less or just healthier food in general. You can be healthy and sneak in once in a while something tasty even if its as bad as McDonalds. Life can’t be taken to seriously. If you are a fitness freak and feel you gained the world over one cheeseburger, which you tend to have once in a blue moon. Just work harder the next time you workout. Stop being a tight ass.

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Amy W September 19, 2012 at 4:51 am

Like Tara mentions in the above comment, I recently noticed the calorie counts at Panera. And I have to say it really changed my mind about eating there. I think in a lot of people’s minds, salads are a healthy quick choice, so the counts on some of their offerings were eye openers. (And I noticed that at least at our local stores, they don’t have calorie information for the baked goods. Wise marketing on their part!)

I’m really not a traditional “fast food” eater, maybe Arby’s once a year when I’m sick and want junk for comfort. But I think it’s going to be the quasi-healthy places like Panera, or Cosi, that will be impacted. Hopefully lightening things up!

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Kristina September 19, 2012 at 5:16 am

I live part-time in New York City where this policy is already in effect. The thing that was most eye-opening to me was seeing the calorie counts on some of the Starbucks items.On the occasions I choose to treat myself I am much better able to choose a reasonable “treat.” There is a HUGE difference between a tall Mocha and a Venti Mocha. I find when I’m not in New York and I’m ordering coffee at a chain or stopping by fast food chain (even somewhere like Subway) I miss having the calories posted because now, along with price, I can make my decision about what to buy on the spot.

For those who are not health conscious and who will buy a big mac no matter what, I think this will at least put the information into their heads. When you notice that your meal is 1,000+ calories on some level you have to think, “wow that’s a lot.” Even if you do go ahead and order it. Perhaps that is the small first step in a bigger change.

Also, having the calories posted may force chains to offer items that are lower in calories so as to cater to people’s rising awareness of health. It will not be beneficial from a marketing stand point to a fast food chain to have only items that register at 700-1,000 calories or more on their menu. Chains will now be looking to offer a wider range of calorie options to their customers.

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Amy H. September 19, 2012 at 5:18 am

I’m a “looker upper” too! I like to have my choice made before I get to the restaurant so I’m not tempted. I do this at sit-down fancy places too. I also use an app “myfatsecret” that helps with calorie counting. Most fast food restaurant choices have already been added so it’s easy to count calories on the go with this app.
One fast food choice I like is Chick Fil A. I splurge on the CFA fried chicken sandwich but get it on a wheat bun with extra pickles. They don’t butter the wheat bun but do the regular bun. Instead of fries, I get the side salad and use their jalapeno salsa (offered with their breakfast items-5 calories per pack–I use two) for my dressing. And unsweet iced tea for my drink. That’s about 480 calories–not too shabby for fast food.

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Deborah September 19, 2012 at 5:26 am

Although I could not tell you the last time I had fast food, calories on menus certainly helps. There are so many time you go out to dinner and do not know where you are going. I really appreciate the restaurants that have the information listed. A lot do not even have it online and you are just guessing off of portion size. Where I live we have a great restaurant called Seasons 52 where everything on their menu is 475 calories of below. And the food is great. I wish there were more places like that.

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Kim Bowers September 19, 2012 at 5:57 am

I recently moved from the Midwest to Philadelphia. Being on the moving diet (ie an abnormal amount of eating out) I was pleasantly surprised to see that most fast food places here list nutritional values on their menus. I fall in the range of “calorie estimator” and as we all know, we often underestimate calories when eating out. Even if it only makes a difference for a small number of us folks, I think it’s great!

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Natalie @ Free Range Human September 19, 2012 at 5:57 am

I really hope it makes a difference. I’m like you-the type that generally looks up nutrition information online. For that reason, I love that they’re posted because it makes the leg work a lot easier. A friend of mine’s husband recently posted on Facebook that he hates that they’ve posted the calories. He said, “I know the quarter pounder is going to make me fat. I just want to eat it!” This is a man that is at least 150lbs overweight. This attitude makes me really sad. I’d like to think this country’s mindset is changing, but I’m not so sure.

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Katie September 19, 2012 at 6:04 am

I disagree and love the calorie count listing on menus. I lost a lot of weight back in college (around 2003) and back then it was a lot of work to find the calorie counts for my favorite restaurants. I spent a couple months preparing all my meals at home to really jump start my weight. While in New York a couple weeks ago, my husband and I both loved knowing how much was in everything when we stopped somewhere for a quick lunch. It made a difference in everything I chose. Granted, I am watching my weight and am a religious calorie counter, but it was so nice to see exactly what I would be eating and helped me to make smart decisions in restaurants where I was not familiar with the food. I would love to see this in my city.

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Jessica McKnight September 19, 2012 at 6:04 am

I agree that it probably won’t make much of a difference overall. I’m sure there will be those people though that will be amazed at the number of calories they were preparing to consume and may change their order with the now-available information. As you said, people that are already conscious of their calorie intake are probably checking online and are aware of the nutritional information anyway. To this point, I don’t know of any other chain that is posting calories on their menu. I still follow WW, so the calories alone don’t give me all the info I need, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. My faves are the McD’s salads w/ grilled chicken…I’ve found that the quality of the salad ingredients is surprisingly good! I get it w/ the FF (LF) Balsamic. I also like the Whopper Jr (no cheese) at BK – it’s only 7WW points+ which is pretty respectable. Last is the Grilled Chicken sandwich at Chick-Fil-A. Also 7WW Points+, I believe. There are options for those that are watching their weight! :)

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Teri September 19, 2012 at 6:08 am

It makes a huge difference with me. When I saw that the double cheese burger at Sonic was 1190 calories (!!!) I have never ordered one again. The corn dog is MUCH lower and that is what I now get.

Hitting a fast food place is a matter of need for me most of the time. I live 15 miles from town and I combine trips… this sometimes takes me past meal time. Also we travel a lot and don’t want to get off the road for the amount of time a ‘sit down’ restaurant takes… and don’t want to pay the higher $$$.

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Jenny September 19, 2012 at 6:10 am

I don’t think it will make too much of a difference at McDonald’s considering the type of food that is offered, but in other establishments it’s likely to at least help. I recently went to Don Pablo’s (a Mexican chain) for my cheat meal, and, though I usually eat whatever I want guilt free for cheat meal, having the calories on the menu caused me to order one of the lowest items I could find (shrimp fajitas). I think it really depends on the person and their knowledge of calories and how they work. If they’ve never thought about it, they probably wouldn’t bat an eye at eating 1,800 calories at dinner.

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Susan September 19, 2012 at 6:11 am

I rarely go to any fast food restaurants but I appreciate the calorie counts when I do. And I am always careful to not stereotype people who frequent them. (Ahem:) Also, because they are last-choice choices for me, I typically would not have looked up the count online.

Not everyone has access to computers, smartphones. Just sayin’

xo

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Marie September 19, 2012 at 6:35 am

I’d much rather they post the ingredients than the calories (though this is available online). I think if people see the crazy long list of artificial ingredients it might make a bigger difference. I’m trying to incorporate more real food into my diet so that has made me realize all the crazy ingredients in our food that helps lead to the laundry list of health problems we face as a nation.

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Cindy September 19, 2012 at 6:43 am

When I go to a restaurant, I always try to choose the healthiest options available (based on what I can figure out myself). If the calorie counts are posted, it just makes it easier to do that. however, I also have common sense, and I know there is nothing HEALTHY to eat at McDonald’s, so if I see that something is 500 calories verses 400 calories, that isn’t going to make any difference to me, because I would never eat any of the food there. You don’t just “end up” at McDonald’s.

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Jen September 19, 2012 at 6:52 am

I don’t eat fast food often, but like you, I tend to check out the online information before ordering anything. As others have said, though, having the information right in front of you can be very helpful. I also am hoping that this is a bit of a tipping point in a trend towards disclosing nutritional information in more restaurants, and will add to the conversation about portion sizes and what a reasonable amount of daily calories actually looks like. And while a difference of 100 calories may not seem like much, if you are someone who frequents fast food places often, that can really add up over time.

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Kristine September 19, 2012 at 6:58 am

In Boston there are two smaller fast food chains that make an effort to be healthier and always post calorie and nutritional information, BGood and UFood. UFood is a favorite of mine because you can choose your side (un-fries, steamed broccoli, and another that I can’t recall). The food is tasty and lower calorie than most other chains. Also they have a counter-part in there stores that sells fat free fro-yo with almost entirely sugar-free toppings.

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Theresa September 19, 2012 at 7:01 am

Seeing the calories for the first time can be eye opening, but it’s easy to ignore after you’ve seen them a million times. Which means, the average McDonalds customer is still going to order from the super-size menu because they’re desensitized in a way. Also, for those that are going to pay attention to calorie counts, I think posting the calories on the actual menu can be dangerous. It’s going to trick people into thinking this stuff is “health food” because it’s “low” calorie. When there’s other stuff to consider like the balance of fats, proteins, & carbs… As well as things like sugar and sodium content. Not to mention trans fats and other dangerous things hiding in fast food.

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Marcella September 19, 2012 at 7:01 am

Seeing calorie counts on menus does makes a difference when I am actively counting calories. Because I have a “number” I need to hit (or more likely not go over), I incorporate those foods into my total for the day. However, if I’m having an off day or just don’t care (which is probably why I would find myself at a drive-thru in the first place), it’s unlikely that it would make that much of a difference in my decision.

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Mari @ Wine Required September 19, 2012 at 7:02 am

I have a habit of justifying an indulgence when I’m eating out. Having the calories on the menu helps me. I do look at the calorie content before I eat out, but having the information right there in front of me will, most likely, keep me honest about my choices. I will still be getting the chocolate cake every once in a while.

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Esther September 19, 2012 at 7:19 am

I don’t know whether it will make a difference on a large scale, but I do think that it’s a good idea. There are some people who won’t use the information, for a variety of reasons. But there are plenty of people who will. Sure, some of those people are people who already pay attention to what their eating. But, as a person who used to eat a TON of crap, and ended up losing a lot of weight simply by learning what was actually in the stuff I was putting into my body, I have to say that having the information available to people who choose to use it – whether that person is already in the habit of trying to make good decisions, or that person has their eyes opened by seeing how many calories are really in a large fries – that’s a positive. You can’t make people wear sunscreen either, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not beneficial to try to educate people about the dangers of UV-rays.

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Jennifer September 19, 2012 at 7:23 am

It totally makes a difference to me, but then again, I haven’t been in a nationwide chain restaurant in quite some time. I have been in smaller chain fast food restaurants, and when they post the numbers, it really makes me think. Like I can see that the albacore sandwich is 400 calories, and the best choice for me, but if I really want to go hog wild that day, the teriyaki burger, at 420, is not such a huge splurge. The BBQ Cheeseburger, at over 600, however, yeah, I should step away. And when I see the numbers on the fries and onion rings, I realize how much they add to the count. What I would love is if I could just order 3 onion rings. All I want is a taste of them, and I would be fine. I end up ordering the half fries/half onion rings, and we throw most of it away, but I just get a taste of them. But personally, I really like the calorie counts, and hope that every restaurant will have to carry this – I know it is a burden to them, but it helps me (and hopefully lots of others) make much better decisions.

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renee rasmussen September 19, 2012 at 7:52 am

i’m like you, i check out the cal count before i go. i always have an idea of what i’m going to get before even getting there and looking at their menu. and honestly…is’nt it obvious that a thriple patty hamburger with cheese and mayo is going to be 600+ cal? lol

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Brianna September 19, 2012 at 8:17 am

I agree with you–if your eating out you are looking to indulge. After eating my homemade white tusacan bean soup at work for lunch I then headed to the McDonald’s down the street for their small fudge sundae and saw it was 330 calories. But I was looking to indulge and got it anyway and all 330 calories tasted good! I just new I needed to continue to make good choices the rest of the day and take a few walks at work for me to feel good about it.

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Andrea September 19, 2012 at 8:24 am

I also check calorie counts online before I go to a restaurant. When I do go to a fast food place however, a lot of times I am going to splurge, just as you talked about. In my opinion, posting calorie counts in McDonalds is only going to make it more convenient for me to look at calories when I do go there. But that’s only because I’m already in the habit of doing that. People in general are creatures of habit and if they don’t care about calories, posting a calorie count menu in a restaurant isn’t going to change that. The desire to change your eating habits doesn’t come from a menu, it comes from within yourself. I also believe that there are many people out there who are uneducated as to what constitutes a healthy amount of calories for a meal. If these fast food chains really wanted to make a difference, they would post information on what a healthy calorie count is.

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Michelle September 19, 2012 at 8:30 am

I am a calorie counter, I lost 70lbs in college and counting calories was a big part of that. While I was actively loosing weight you better believe I was looking up calorie counts before I ever stepped into a restaurant. Now, however, I am more in a maintenance mode and do not go out of my way to look up before I go but I LOVE that it is there on the menu. Really makes me think twice or at least be 100% aware of what I am putting into my body.

Now, to your “people will ignore it” point, I think there is some truth to that but I think some of that ignoring it is coming from ignorance. What I mean by that is that people wont even realize it is there or what it is. I ran into this two times while eating out with my family both my Mom and Dad were completely oblivious to what those funny three or four digit numbers before the price were all about. I happily pointed out that was the calorie count and I think they took that to heart.

Even if it doesn’t deter the population at large from making poor food choices, the more tools and knowledge that are out there the better. I don’t think by any means it is a BAD thing but sure, maybe it isn’t the end all be all answer to our nations issues with food.

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Carissa September 19, 2012 at 9:00 am

I love seeing the calorie counts, mostly because I’m always interested in knowing. I agree with you, though, that most of those eating fast food aren’t that concerned. Perhaps by having the stats posted for longer periods of time, the numbers will slowly make an impact on America’s health. I hope!

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Elise September 19, 2012 at 9:45 am

Yeah, sorry, this post sounds sanctimonious as hell. There are people who can’t afford internet or a smartphone. There are people like my grandmother who doesn’t know how to use the internet, beyond forwarding terrible chain emails about Bill Gates giving you $5 if you forward this. She’s a life-long calorie counter who LOVES to eat at Red Lobster. Doesn’t she deserve to know as well?

And don’t say, “oh, but they have pamphlets!” Because, no, most of them do not. Last weekend I dined with my grandmother at Red Lobster for her 82nd birthday. They had no nutritional information available on site. Our perky waitress was happy to tell us that it was all available on the web. Yes, I could have done my research ahead of time – if I had known that I needed to do so. I’m from a city where chain restaurants have to provide the info in the restaurant, so I didn’t anticipate the need. And, again, my grandmother isn’t exactly the most adept at using computers.

So why the judge-y tone of the post and comments here? Is it just that you’re annoyed that going forward, others don’t have to put as much time and effort into research as you did? Because honestly, that’s kind of the vibe I’m getting. Basically, you’re saying that it won’t matter because if they really cared, they would look it up ahead of time online. Why should it be so hard to dine out and dine healthy? Why is the bad to make it easier?

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Sam @ The Second Lunch September 19, 2012 at 9:47 am

I just moved back to Boston last year after four years of living in San Francisco, where the calorie counts were posted, and quite frankly, I’m glad to see that this is going to be implemented here! It just makes it easier to make a better choice.

I have to say, I was surprised at how much it made a difference in not only my own personal habits, but that of my partner’s. I’m the type of person who will actively look up nutrition information before heading out, but my partner could care less about nutrition unless it stares him in the face. That said, the calorie counts was exactly that – staring him in the face. I remember being dumbfounded the first time he said at Chipotle – “Huh, I just had no idea that the quesadilla (which he was purchasing in addition to the burrito) was so bad for you, and then actively stopped ordering it. He’s gone on to lose 100 pounds in the five years we’ve lived together by doing *nothing* other than eating what I cook and these small changes. (Yes, this makes me cringe a little bit.)

While those ordering two big macs and a large fries are less likely to get the memo, I honestly believe that even small choices – a medium fries instead of a large – 150 to 200 calories less per day can make huge differences in health, so I’m all for this!

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admin September 19, 2012 at 9:57 am

This is such a great discussion. I find value in every single thing you’ve all shared. Something I want to make clear:

I DO NOT want [any of us] to pass judgment on people who visit fast food chains regularly. I stand firmly in a camp that believes: ‘you can and should do whatever you want and own it.’ Just because I’m timid about the calories at Burger King does not mean I want you to be. Yes, obesity is a real concern in our society, but I do not like to elevate myself or anyone else to a higher moral ground just because we choose to avoid fast food. I will be the first to say I think the food tastes awesome (yep, I said it). Also, I’m of the mind that fast food chains aren’t the real problem in our battles with weight. There is so much more to factor in.

Instead, I’m simply acknowledging that there exists a population who dines at McDonald’s and is aware that the meals there are fairly caloric and contain a lengthy ingredient list. These folks still want McDonald’s and are likely not deterred by the numbers. I could very well be wrong, but from my experience, nearly all the peeps I know who eat fast food often are well aware of what they’re eating and choose to eat it anyway. I think my mom would be a great person to comment here. She accepts that a quarter pounder with cheese isn’t light or healthy, but she digs it regardless of nutrition. That’s her thing and there’s nothing wrong with it.

All this being said, I, too, like the posting of calories for the sake of awareness, for the sake of companies being honest with consumers about their food. I’m just not convinced that we’ll see much change from it.

Andie

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Rachel September 19, 2012 at 11:13 am

I think they do make a difference. I live in ohio where we don’t have the calories on the menus, but we visited california last year and discovered some of the restaurants did have them. We did happen to stop at a mcdonalds and my bf himself said that seeing the calories made him decide to get the small shake instead of a large one. I think most people know that fast food in particular is not good for you, but most don’t know how many calories are really in the things they eat and upon seeing them it does make them re-think their decisions

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jrm September 19, 2012 at 11:36 am

I say it can’t hurt.

I used to do field work in very rural areas at out of town locations over long periods of time. Meaning, lunch everyday was pretty much at a fast food restaurant. I suppose if I was really on it and industrious I could have packed a lunch from ingredients bought from a local grocery store (never thought of it). Fast food restaurants were cheap, easy, filling and usually all that was available in the time alloted. When I would do this type of work, we would be out for weeks at a time and there wasn’t time to look up calorie counts on things.
The irony is that looking at my blood labs from that time my cholesterol was the lowest its been and my weight stayed steady, likely do the physical type of work I was doing at the time. That’s not to say that I recommend this diet I followed for a few years but eh, I think in the grand scheme it’s not the end of the world.

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Becca September 19, 2012 at 11:47 am

I actually had an interesting experience with this just a couple years ago, when California first started nudging chain restaurants towards posting nutrition information (but before it was required). I went out to BJs with some friends, knowing that I wasn’t going to have a whole lot of healthy options, but expecting to get soup and salad. I was surprised to see the back half of the menu was full of nutrition information. I took a gander and was STUNNED to see that their tomato soup was almost 600 calories for a bowl. I glanced through the menu and determined that I could get a personal-sized veggie pizza for 500 calories. I could eat PIZZA instead of SOUP! As someone who prides myself on making healthy choices and being able to correctly guesstimate the caloric content of restaurant foods, I was very grateful for the posted information. Whether or not I changed my order based on what I saw, I was at least able to consider myself an informed consumer. (And it was also fascinating to watch the rest of the table indulge in a pizookie per person, after seeing that their dessert alone was costing over 1000 calories. No judgment, but a keen observation.)

I agree that most people probably won’t change their mind about what they’re eating. I believe that most people know that going out to eat, whether it’s McDonald’s or Outback, don’t expect to be eating healthfully. But there are those people (like me) who try to make good choices and are sometimes deterred by restaurants’ use of butter/oil/cream/unexpected ingredients that add hundreds of calories to dishes we would usually consider healthy. It’s akin to posting warning labels on cigarettes. It’s not going to stop anyone hell-bent on having one, but it just might deter the casual user or someone interested in changing their lifestyle.

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Cheets September 19, 2012 at 11:55 am

Since the beginning of the year, my husband and I have done a lifestyle change to count the number of calories in our food and exercise. Part of that involves counting calories when we go out to eat. There are some restaurants that we don’t go to any more (like Chilis) because the calorie counts in the majority of their items is so high.

We usually eat lunch together during the work week and don’t always pack a lunch. We looked at restaurant and fast food websites to find out which items were low in calories. There are standard items at different restaurants we get because we know the calorie count. For example, the Fresco menu at Taco Bell has some lower calorie items.

I think it will be helpful to us to have the calorie count posted on the menus since we are in the habit of counting calories and want to eat food that is within a certain calorie count. Counting calories has helped me and my husband lose weight and it’s what works for us.

Maybe someone who’s not used to counting calories will make a better choice by seeing the number of calories posted on fast food menus. I think this is a good thing. It’s not going to solve all the problems, but I think it is a step in the right direction.

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Cara September 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm

I think it makes a difference to some, which means it’s a positive endeavor. When Panera started doing it, I can recall how so many of my friends thought that Panera was just the healthiest place in the world to eat (which, to be fair, it is definitely a lesser evil), but when they realized that they were scarfing down a panini or a cinnamon crunch bagel that was half of their daily calorie recommendation, they were shocked. We’re so trusting of these institutions, to the point where if they advertise that it’s healthy, we believe them. Lots of restaurants are deceptively health-conscious, in that they advertise “no trans fat” and “whole grains” and offer many salad choices, but when you get right down to how many calories we’re actually consuming, it’s just not the case. At the very least, we can’t claim ignorance anymore, and restaurants are going to have to be accountable as well. At some point, maybe not today or tomorrow, but at some point, it’s going to a bad business decision to put something on your menu that you have to post “2,094″ next to. Now they can advertise, “we DO have healthy options; see for yourself.”

You’re right Andie, I think some people are going to eat what they want regardless of the number plastered next to their favorite item for all the world to see, but for those of us who do care, or WANT to care, this has got to be a step in the right direction.

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Chelsea September 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Knowledge is the key to end all ignorance. As someone said, it won’t stop the obesity epidemic, but it will begin to start making people a little more conscious about their decisions. And if someone has (yes, has to) stop at McDonald’s or some other 24hr fast food restaurant in the wee hours of the morning/night after being at the hospital with the family for several hours, it will help those who are trying to be healthier. Smart phones make it a little unnecessary but not everyone has a smart phone and it seems fair to be able to make the same information available to all, and not just the ones with the means. Giving information to people, even if it’s the calorie count, seems like a smart idea to me. I can say that just Monday I was at a local restaurant and I was able to choose a better option for my dinner because the calories were posted on a “light” item and the other item I was looking at wasn’t listed, I knew I was doing good with what I ordered because of the calorie counting.

Also I’d like to add that I’m on Weight Watchers, so looking up my food in advance is something I try to do but sometimes life gets crazy and I don’t have times or the means (phones dead), life just happens and I like the options that are available to me now!!

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Meg September 19, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Here’s my two cents, for what it’s worth. The times I go for fast food are few and far between. But my brother or my husband? They hit it at least once a week and typically think nothing of it. Or my husband will say, “Yeah, we all went to BK on break, I know it wasn’t good for me, but it was where everyone wanted to go.” If putting the calories on the menues means that people might think twice about going for the triple Whopper or whatever, or drop from a supersize fries and sugary drink to a medium or small, these are all good things. I think that, sure, some people just don’t index what they put into their bodies, and that’s their choice. But if you help to give more people the tools to make better choices, I think it’s sad that so many commenters are so jaded that “Oh, well anyone who eats there has given up and it won’t change anything.” Maybe it won’t. But maybe it WILL.

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Danielle September 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I think it’s really great that they are posting the calories on the menu. I work for a company in CA and when I’m there it is great because when we go out to dinner and I can make a good choice for dinner because they list the calories on the menu.

I also agree that life gets stressful and busy and sometimes I have to grab fast food in an effort to eat anything at all. It stinks when that happens, but it’s life. It’s crazy busy and sometimes you have to make those dreaded stops. I would love it if more fast food places listed the calories. LIke Andie, I usually check online before I go….and I know what to get at most of my preferred fast food places already.

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Melanie September 19, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I am from ND and they just started putting calories on menus. My husband and I had a date night (those rarely happen!) and went out to eat. The menu at the restaurant had the calories listed. Instead of getting what we would normally order, the calories really changed our minds! We are not overweight people but we laughed how it sucked that they listed it because it made us too guilty to order what we really wanted. I really believe it will help. At least our family anyways. I hate McDonald’s (not because I don’t like the taste of the food- but because of the calories) but our kids love the play area with the tunnels. We sometimes treat them to a visit. I like that the calories are listed so I can make more wise choices for them, as well as myself. Now only if they would make a grilled chicken ‘nugget’, we’d be golden! :)

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Kelli September 19, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Recently at Panera, I noticed the calories added to the menu. It made a difference in my decision but I am concious of calories and fat. I think it will help. Sometimes we order things thinking it will be a better choice and it is not. There are hidden calories and fat in things that seem innocent. I really thought the French onion soup was a better choice… Wrong…

On the road, I like a chicken fajita pita at jack in the box. It’s delicious, nutritious and filling. I also like the fruit and yogurt parfait from mcd’s but only if I haven’t had a lot of sugar for the day.

Once again, thank you for your post.

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Tracy {Pale Yellow} September 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm

After living in New York City where calorie amounts are mandated on all chain restaurants, I have found it does make a difference for me and most of my friends. As often as I cook for myself and bring my own food, there are times when food is needed quickly and easily. I am not opposed to sitting down and indulging, but I like to choose when I do and do not indulge. When calories are posted I am better able to make an educated decision about what I eat.

For example when I was working full time and going to grad school I needed something warm and small to tide me over through class until I could get home to have dinner. When the calories are in front of your face it makes it much easier to grab a small hot chocolate or an unsweetened tea when you know what you’re getting. I may have always wanted a large drink or something sugary, but but the calorie counts are hard to ignore.

For people that care, the few hundred calories make a difference. This is about awareness, any can choose to ignore the information, but make it easily available for all, can do nothing but help.

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Ali September 19, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Many of these comments have considered how displaying calorie counts on menus would (or would not) influence individual consumer behavior. I am wondering how compulsory menu labeling will impact the restaurant industry.

If restaurants must disclose the calories in their food, perhaps they would be inspired by consumer demand to offer more lower calorie items and eliminate their highest calorie items. This could be made possible through reducing added fats and sugars, or shrinking portion sizes. Right now at many restaurants (fast food in particular), finding a healthy choice is a challenge, not the default. Wouldn’t it be nice if healthy choices were easier to find? Maybe mandatory calorie counts would take us a step in that direction.

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Melanie September 19, 2012 at 6:43 pm

The calories are listed on all pre-packaged items you buy. This make a difference for most of people that are trying to lose weight. I don’t understand why this would not be any different just because its in a fast food restaurant. Due to traveling for work, I sometimes don’t have a choice where I get to eat. Its usually fast food at an airport or at a fast food place because that is where my traveling companions choose to eat and we have one car. I usually agree with everything you have on your blog, but I am surprised to disagree with you on this. I don’t think too much information is a bad thing.

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Jennifer September 19, 2012 at 7:14 pm

I do not think posting calorie counts will make a difference UNLESS the public is FIRST educated on how many TOTAL calories one should consume in a day. If someone sees a big mac listed as 540 calories and 30 grams of fat but doesn’t realize their daily allowance is 1,500 calories and 20 grams saturated fat, how would they know
Thats more than 1/3 of their calories gone in one sandwich??

As a nurse practitioner in primary care (internal medicine) I cannot even begin to count how many of my patients are unaware of the recommended total daily caloric intake when I ask them. I often do a 24 or 72 hour dietary recall with them and roughly estimate their daily caloric intake; many of these overweight and obese patients are eating 3,000 to 4,000 calories on a daily basis. When I educate them om the recommendations for achieving ideal body weight, they are stunned when then here 1,500-2,000 (depending onamy factors of course).

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ASuburbanLife September 19, 2012 at 7:51 pm

I love having the calorie counts. I tend to not eat out at chain restaurants, but on the occasion (usually business travel) when I have found myself at Elephant Bar or Red Robin, I was astounded to see the high calorie counts of items I normally would have chosen thinking they were healthy. My teenage daughter and I found no more than 3 items on the entire menu (including appetizers) at Elephant Bar that were within a “normal” calorie count for a meal.

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admattai September 19, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Since I don’t eat beef or pork, I just stick to the chicken/fish options which aren’t so bad. The Filet-o-Fish at McDonalds is one of my favorite guilty pleasures and it rolls in at less than 400 calories a sandwich which isn’t too bad. In general, I usually just stick to ordering from the dollar menus since the portion sizes are smaller there. Also, I never order soft drinks to avoid empty calories.

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Carly Ann September 19, 2012 at 8:37 pm

I agree that most of the time when I go to a fast food restaurant, it’s because I am craving something definitely NOT healthy. I do like having the calories posted though. At least then I can make a mental note and adjust my eating for the rest of the day to try to accommodate it.

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Sue September 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm

I really think I get a bit annoyed when the government forces restaurants to post calorie counts. Just my opinion but really if you need the governemnt to tell you to eat a salad or you can’t educate yourself, well maybe that is where the problem is.
I eat too much fast food and this is my choice and calorie counts are not going to change what I eat. It is just more government intervention. Sorry if I got political but this type of thing makes me heated. Everyone knows Mickey D’s is not healthy…seriously. eat a salad. sorry…but seriously

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Katie September 20, 2012 at 2:24 am

Recently, I met friends at Chili’s, and was surprised to see that there were calories listed on the menu. There were numerous entrees over 1000 calories each, that I would have had no clue were that terrible for you. Had I not seen these listings, I might have ordered a salad that I thought was healthy, but in reality, totally wasn’t. Because the calories were there, and staring me down, I made a compromise with myself, and ordered something in the 700 range. I didn’t eat the whole plate because I knew it wasn’t healthy for me. Some might argue that there is a “certain person” that will make these decisions, while others will ignore it, and eat unhealthy anyway. I say, why not give everyone that opportunity, no matter what education or knowledge they have on nutrition, to make the right decision and take control of their eating. I support it! Thanks for this really awesome and constructive discussion. I really enjoyed reading others’ perspectives on nutrition.

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Sara @my less serious life September 20, 2012 at 4:04 am

i just stumbled on your blog for the first time. i adore it. adore.

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Bree September 20, 2012 at 6:15 am

I believe a longitudinal study absolutely will show that posting calorie counts makes a diference in behavior. We’ll just have to wait and see for that.

Also, posting calorie counts will influence what a chain restaurant adds to the menu. If they create a new burger, but it’s 1500 calories, they will absolutely rethink that. I would imagine they would rethink any dishes with a calorie count with more than 3 digits.

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Bree September 20, 2012 at 6:15 am

I believe a longitudinal study absolutely will show that posting calorie counts makes a difference in behavior. We’ll just have to wait and see for that.

Also, posting calorie counts will influence what a chain restaurant adds to the menu. If they create a new burger, but it’s 1500 calories, they will absolutely rethink that. I would imagine they would rethink any dishes with a calorie count with more than 3 digits.

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J September 20, 2012 at 6:19 am

I think the place where it will make a difference is restaurants perceived as “healthy.” You order a salad or a turkey sandwich thinking you’re making a good choice, but then you see the nutrition content, and you would have been better off which a hamburger and fries from McDonalds! In those situations, I think people will be surprised, and the nutrition labels will be a good thing!

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Wendy September 21, 2012 at 12:20 pm

I do appreciate having the calories posted on the food items; it certainly makes a diffence to me. I don’t eat at McDonald’s often or pick the healthiest option, but having the calories listed tells me when to stop. Even after making the purchase I may only eat half of the cheeseburger and 5 fries based on the amount of calories I have left (or need) for the day. If it helps only a few people cut back then it’s worth it!

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Coral September 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I don’t agree to your take on the study. It’s all in how you spin it. When the calories were posted, people ate 10% less calories which actually is quite a significant difference.

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Julia @cookandburn.com September 22, 2012 at 6:31 am

When I saw this on the news, I told my husband that I didn’t think that posting the calories will impact the regular McD customer. They go there for certain foods that they like. I don’t eat at McD’s because I just don’t really like anything (except for their discontinued Asian Chicken Salad). Anyway, I, too, always look up the nutritional info or menu online before going out to eat so I can make an informed and healthy choice. I never think it’s a bad idea to share the nutritional information, though. Maybe for those people that struggle to make good food decisions, seeing that their regular meal maxes out their calorie allotment for the day, may impact their choice.

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Jess September 22, 2012 at 8:59 am

I’m of mixed feelings about this issue, and I think in some ways it’s because I’m overly sensitive thanks to having someone very close to me be a recovering anorexic. See, having the calories counts right out there for me, or for perhaps even the majority of people, can be eye-opening and helpful–it can help me make the decision if I want to try to work something into my day, or if I’d rather make another choice instead. And yes, it’s made me think “OK, I can have the soup, but not in the bread bowl,” and move on with my day. But for him? It’s not like that. Calorie counts on menus can make it EXCEEDINGLY difficult for him to make a food decision, because he will start doing the math in his head or stressing himself out or panicking over how much something is, and it can lead to a spiral. And this isn’t just McDonald’s–this is anywhere that does it. And it’s not as if he can avoid restaurants forever, you know? Recovery is a lifetime thing, as I’m sure many people reading here know, and so it’s hard for me to say what the best thing is. Do I think calorie information should be readily available? I absolutely do, and don’t think that places should hem & haw over making it available to the best of their availability. But I don’t think that they necessarily need to put it front & center–maybe a handout, or a chart posted somewhere, but not on every part of the menu. Just my thoughts. Great discussion!

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Amanda September 22, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I tend to agree with you. All chains in NYC and the surrounding area (maybe the whole state?) are required to post the calories for their menu items. The most shocking part of this for me was the calorie counts of salads. I always knew they weren’t necessarily healthy, but didn’t expect them to frequently be one of the highest calorie items on menus!
I changed some of my ordering habits due to seeing the calories. But those who are going to pick the fattiest, least healthy thing on the menu are going to do it either way.

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Hannah September 23, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I think you are mostly right, Andie.
I live in south Mississippi, one of the states with the highest obesity rates in the US. Even if people stopped going to all the fast food chains around here, the way food is traditionally prepared in the South would keep them fat! Too much is making us fat- too much food, too much butter, etc. Many people just don’t know the meaning of the word balance.
That being said, I do think calorie counts are very helpful and useful in resturants. Some people simply don’t know what they are eating; it will help inform them. Some may not have had time to look up calorie counts online; now they can compare meals where they are.
Sometimes though, we go, and decide that this time, we won’t be strict; this time, we will just go with it. This one unaccounted-for meal, we will completely enjoy without guilt, without remorse. Because we know, that the next meal will come, and we will be healthful. We will not ruin our health in one trip to Applebee’s.

That’s what balance is about.

Enjoying those occassional indulgences, and knowing that we did not fail; because this is not a diet to fail, it’s a life to live.

~Hannah B

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Rebecca October 1, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Having just moved from Small Town USA to big city Seattle, I’d never seen calorie counts on menus before.. And boy, they are everywhere here. I would like to think it would make people more calorie-aware, but unfortunately, I think people are still going to make poor choices (says the girl who had McDonalds twice in the last week! Shame on me!)
I do like knowing how many calories I’m consuming, though.. I feel guilty when I track it on my iPhone. So the next day (or that night), when I hit the gym, I keep telling myself “Burn off that McChicken!!”

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Jane in FL October 2, 2012 at 10:03 am

Posting the calorie counts both online and at the restaurant has changed my entire take-out/dine out life. Seriously. For those of you who never go out or drive through anything, good for you and I support and am happy for your choices. I have cut my take out purchases more then half just by making different choices but there are still good choices to be made even at McDonalds so dismissing them as sub-par food choices is just being condescending. It’s like those who turn away bakery boxes at a school function because it wasn’t made “in your own kitchen by your own hands.” Wow. I have changed my eating habits and am losing weight at a good pace because of it and that includes different choices when eating out. If my husband (who can eat anything and remain fit and healthy) wants fast food or I want to pick something up on the way home, I already know which good choices to make at several places, low calories, low fat content, good protein. If you look for the bad, you will find it but if you look for the good you will find that as well.

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Valerie October 8, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I live in NY, where calories have to be posted and I love it. When they first proposed this I thought it was absolutely silly. Of course I know that pumpkin spice latte is bad for me! Why spoil my fun by forcing me to come face to face with how bad? But I have grown to appreciate the information. There are items that I was fully aware are high in calories, but I openly admit I had no idea just HOW high in calories they are. I would say that I utilize the menu calorie counts most when having the occasional treat. Knowing that one type of cake or muffin is x calories or y calories can and does impact my decisions. It makes you stop and think- do I really want that munchkin doughnut for 75 calories… can you even believe that so many calories can live in such a tiny little package?! How do they all fit in there?! (Yes, this conversation did happen in my mind earlier today…) I work in CT where calories are not posted and find myself missing it. Again, in my opinion, this is not a factor in the cheeseburger and fries vs garden salad, no dressing decision, but it could help make the decision of which salad or sandwich I order.

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Lee Ann November 10, 2012 at 10:33 am

I have read most of the comments posted and it seems that everyone is only concerned with calories. They are important but the nutritional value of the calories one eats is more important. If you spend your daily allowance of calories on fat, protein and carbs, you are missing so many nutrients your body needs to be healthy and fit. Subway is by far the best Fastfood choice and there are more Subways in this country than McDonalds. We all find our
selves faced with eating fast food at sometime, making the best choice possible is the best you can do. For sure having the nutritional facts posted is a great help for all of us who are working to maintain a healthy weight.

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Jane November 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Speaking only for myself, when I mention calories, I am covering all the nutritional aspects of an item. I would think there are a few others who understand that as well. If only one person sees the fat content of the french fries, or sugar content of a frozen coffee drink, and stops buying them as I have done, this will be a success. I am more of the opinion that it is going to help someone somewhere and we should leave everyone to their own plan. What helps me will not help someone else, etc.

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