Eating out or ordering in? If the restaurant has 20 or more locations, the menu has to list calories. (The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Nutrition Action’s publisher, led the fight for that labeling law.)

But some menus—especially those online or in apps—are tricky. If you don’t know the catch, you could end up with more calories (and added sugar or unhealthy fat) than you bargained for.

What’s more, on delivery apps like DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats, you might see calories...or you might not. That’s why CSPI has asked the FDA to tell companies that menus on “third-party” apps aren’t exempt from the law.

(See other menus without calories? The FDA has said that it would “not object” if restaurants didn’t disclose calories during the pandemic. But c’mon, it’s been well over a year.)

You call that "healthy"?

screen capture of door dash app showing "healthy" options section

The Catch: “Healthy” labels. Apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash, Seamless, and Grubhub offer search buttons for “healthy” restaurants. That’s a decent way to narrow your options in one tap. And while it led us to plenty of salad shops and healthy-ish fast casual chains, it’s no guarantee that the entire menu is healthy. In fact, sometimes burger joints and pizza shops showed up in “healthy” searches. With DoorDash, that included The Cheesecake Factory. Really?

Per serving or per scoop?

ben & jerry's menu board

The Catch: Scoops. Ben & Jerry’s menu board lists calorie ranges for its different flavors, but it doesn’t say that each range is for 1 to 3 “scoops”...AND that even a “small” cup or cone has 2 scoops. (It may look like 1 big scoop when they hand it to you.) A “large” has 3 scoops.

So even though the menu board says “200–600” calories for, say, a Vanilla or Cherry Garcia ice cream, a “small” cup has 400.

Also confusing: the calorie range next to the price for a “small” on the menu board starts at 200 (not shown in photo). Why? The company is using 2 scoops of sorbet (at 100 calories per scoop), not ice cream, to get its 200-calorie minimum.

Surely, Ben & Jerry’s didn’t want customers to underestimate the calories in their ice cream. Nah.

What's your size?

screen capture of the smoothie king app with calories highlighted


The Catch: Sizes. The Smoothie King app shows “270–550 Calories” when you order a Carrot Kale Dream smoothie.

But you have to check the nutrition information on the company’s website to see what the range covers (270 calories for the 20 oz. size, 420 calories for 32 oz., and 550 calories for 40 oz.)

How convenient.

Per slice?

California Pizza Kitchen app screen capture with calories highlighted


The Catch: Slices. California Pizza Kitchen’s app lists pizzas along with pastas, salads, and other main dishes that typically serve one person. (So does its menu.)

Right below the California Veggie pizza, for example, it says “180 Cal.”

Hope you didn’t miss that “per slice” and “all pizzas are 6 slices” in the parentheses below the ingredients. The entire pizza? 1,080 calories.

The FDA’s rule: Restaurants can use “per slice,” “per wing,” “per breadstick,” etc., as long as they disclose the number of units that are in one order.

New rule: Read before you eat.

Customized calories?

screen capture of Starbucks app pointing to calories

The Catch: Swaps. How do you take your coffee? With the Starbucks app, you can swap the default 2% milk for almond, soy, or another milk, add or subtract sugary syrups or whip, and more...without ever talking to a barista.

But see the tiny “i” in the circle next to “190 calories”? It says: “Information is based on standard recipes and does not reflect customizations.”

So whether it’s Starbucks or other chains, don’t assume that an app’s calories, sugar, etc., match what you’re going to get unless you see the calories change as you add or remove ingredients.

How's your math?

cava app screen shot highlighting calorie range

The Catch: Ranges. See a range in calories for a dish made up of customizable components? Don’t count on winding up near the low end.

Take the Grain Bowl at the fast-casual Mediterranean chain Cava. Uber Eats shows it as “365–803 Cal.”

Want to stay under 400 calories? Good luck.

The grain base alone has 200-plus. You can add up to three dips (25 to 60 calories each), one protein (210 to 300 calories) or roasted vegetable (60 to 190 calories), up to a dozen toppings, and a dressing or two (30 to 180 calories each). The toppings’ calories are all labeled—separately—on Uber Eats. Calculator, anyone?

Cava’s own app does the math for you. (Check next to the price after you “add to bag.”) Our advice: Use it to tally your order’s calories, even if you’re placing the order with the restaurant or on a delivery app. You can do the same on Sweetgreen’s app. Bravo!

The bottom line

  • No calories on a “third-party” delivery app? Check the restaurant’s website or app. (Bonus: If you order from the restaurant, you—and it—can dodge delivery app fees.)
  • Don’t assume that calories include side dishes or dressing—especially if you have choices—or “optional” bread.
  • See a slash (like “200/400 cal”)? That means your calories depend on one choice (say, either a cup or a bowl of soup).
  • Ranges (like “300–700 cal”) mean your calories depend on your choice among three or more options (say, a side of fries, chips, or salad). Use the website or app or ask the restaurant to see the calories for each option.
  • See a menu with confusing labels? Let the FDA know at

Photo (Ben & Jerry's): Lindsay Moyer/CSPI.