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In Brief: Post Calories, Lose 41 of Them

menu boardRequiring restaurants to post calorie and nutritional information may lead to slightly healthier food options, but not by much, suggests a study of restaurants in one of the first counties to implement nutritional labeling. Eighteen months after the chain restaurants were required to post nutritional information, the same entrees had 41 fewer calories.

The Affordable Care Act requires chain restaurants post their menu items’ nutritional information, such as calories. One objective is to raise consumer awareness of what we are eating, which would then encourage restaurants to serve healthier foods.

The study analyzed the menus at almost 40 sit-down and fast-food chain restaurants in King County, Washington. Researchers measured the nutritional content of the same menu entrees – almost 1,800 of them – six months after the regulations went into effect and 12 months later.

For all restaurants, the entrées had 41 fewer calories on average between the time periods; sit-down restaurants were 73 fewer and fast-service meals were 19 less calories. Sodium content dropped by 230 milligrams – a 10% decrease – in sit-down restaurants.

But over half of the entrées were still relatively high in calories, saturated fats, and sodium, compared to dietary guidelines. When comparing one entrée to one-third of the recommendations, over half had more calories, about three-quarters more saturated fats, and nine of ten exceeded sodium guidelines.

Source: Energy, Saturated Fat, and Sodium Were Lower in Entrées at Chain Restaurants at 18 Months Compared with Six Months Following the Implementation of Mandatory Menu Labeling Regulation in King County, Washington, by Barbara Bruemmer, PhD, RD; Jim Krieger, MD, MPH, Brian E. Saelens, PhD, Nadine Chan, PhD, MPH. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Volume 112/Issue 8 August 2012.

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