Friday, September 14, 2012

Calorie Info Coming to McDonald's Menus!

According to the Los Angeles Times (Sept. 12), McDonald's is "yielding to consumer demand" and will act ahead of the federal timeline by swapping out their menu boards and replacing them with ones that include calorie information next to each item. Way to go consumers! And way to go Mcee-Dees.

Nearly two years ago, legislation was passed requiring that restaurants operating 20 or more locations under the same name post calorie information next to each standard menu item. Some states, such as California, have already mandated the law; but it has not been equally mandated across the U.S. yet. Some restaurants have voluntarily pushed forward. Next week, we can expect to see McDonald's, operating over 14,000 U.S. locations, to do the same.

I'm so happy about this! Most of us eat out sometimes (some more often than others) and I feel it's only fair we know what we're getting. It sure is easier to make a health-conscious choice when you have those nutrition facts right in front of you. I can't tell you how many times it's changed my mind. As a dietitian, one of the most frequent questions I receive is, "How do I stick to my meal plan when I go out?" It's very hard to do. Foods can be prepared a number of different ways and portion sizes can be difficult to estimate. Not to mention the temptation of the restaurant environment, smell of the food and taste of the food--all factors that can lead us to overeating. Even with an extensive knowledge of nutrition, I am often fooled. Would you ever think that a dish of pasta packs in 1,500 calories? It's more common than you think. If you're serious about staying healthy, losing weight or controlling diabetes, having nutrition information is essential. And P.S.--the second part of this legislation will mandate that the remaining nutrition facts (fat, carbs, etc.) be available as well.

It's not like we don't have some resources now--there are books, apps and even many restaurants' websites that divulge restaurant nutrition information. But that adds one extra step to our already busy day...planning ahead. If we can see the nutrition facts while we're placing our order, I believe we're more likely to alter our choice. What you don't know can't hurt you, right? Wrong.

So thanks, McDonald's. I hope that other restaurants will follow suit soon. And I also hope that with consumer realization of what they're eating, it will bring about more healthy options too.

How do you feel about calories being posted on the menu? Would you rather know or not know?