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Healthy Recipe Doctor

with Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

Elaine Magee's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support she has brought to the WebMD community throughout the years.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Do Calories Posted on Restaurant Menus Influence Your Choices?

by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

I know that my decision on what to order in a restaurant is, to a certain extent, influenced by the number of calories I see posted next to it on the menu board or menu. Granted, I usually have a good idea what the lighter choices are.

The Affordable Care Act imposed a requirement that chain restaurants with 20 or more outlets post calorie counts on menu boards, so you’ll be noticing this more and more in the months to come.

I think there is a percentage of people who aren’t going to be affected by this information and who perhaps simply don’t care about their health. But there are plenty of other folks who will factor this information into their decision. I don’t think this is a good thing for people who are in the throes of an eating disorder or who have a tendency toward restrictive eating or obsessive behavior. So my question is: do you think this will help the people it is intended to help — people who are overweight or obese?

A few nights ago, I was at an Italian restaurant in my town, where they have the calories posted on the menu. The dish I wanted with smoked chicken breast, mushrooms, and whole grain pasta had around 1,000 calories next to it, clearly from the cream listed last in the description. When the waiter heard my apprehension, he said that ever since they posted the calories, certain menu items weren’t as popular and were subsequently taken off the menu.

So what did I do? I asked that my dish be prepared extra light on the cream. I also ended up eating only half of it. Not because of the potential calories, but because I ate it slowly and that was the amount that was satisfying.

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 1:01 pm

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