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Restaurant Calories Unchanged Year after Labeling Law

Drive Thru Neon Sign One year after chain restaurants became required to post nutrition information, there was little to no change in healthier entrée options for adults and kids, finds a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

For the study, researchers collected the amount of calories and sodium in entrées from 213 restaurants. The nutrition information was provided from the restaurants, suc as through their website. Together, the restaurant companies make up about a quarter of US chain restaurants.

One year later they collected the same nutrition information from the same restaurants’ entrée options. Overall, the average calories and sodium stayed about the same after a year. But fast food entrées for kids decreased by 40 calories on average. And family-style restaurants lowered calorie and sodium levels from the main courses that a year previous were at the highest levels.

For the restaurants that changed their menu, slightly more made healthier menu changes than unhealthy, but the majority made no changes. For example, 10 percent of these restaurants offered entrées with fewer calories while 7 percent offered entrées with more. In March 2010, restaurants with 20 or more locations became required to post calories for their menu options.

Today, implementing and enforcing the law is still taking place, but some restaurants quickly adding calorie counts to their menus and the topic of healthier restaurant meals became more common. This study only looked at entrees and longer-term studies are needed, note the authors. Yet this finding shows that it will take more than this federal law in order for restaurants to offer far more healthier choices to their menus.

Helen W. Wu, Roland Sturm. "Changes in the Energy and Sodium Content of Main Entrées in US Chain Restaurants from 2010 to 2011." Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 03 October 2013.

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