Eating out is no longer a rare treat saved for special occasions. Americans eat out more than ever, consuming, on average, one-third of their calories from dining out. And, numerous studies link eating out with obesity. Without clear, easy-to-use nutrition information at the point of ordering, it’s difficult to make informed and healthy choices.
In March 2010, Congress passed a national law requiring chain restaurants with 20 or more outlets to list calories and other nutrition information on menus and menu boards. In December 2014, the Food and Drug Administration released final regulations for calorie labeling for standard menu items at chain food service establishments. In addition to fast-food and sit-down chain restaurants, the new regulations also require calorie labeling for prepared foods at supermarkets, convenience stores, and movie theaters. Calorie counts will be posted for all items, including alcoholic drinks, listed on menus and menu boards, and on display tags for salad bars, bakery items, and soda dispensers. A companion rule requires calorie labeling for vending machines. By December 2015, calorie labeling should be posted in chain restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores, and movie theaters near you.
States and localities can support menu labeling and enhance its effectiveness by conducting campaigns and education programs to encourage healthy eating at restaurants and the use of the available nutrition information. Cities and states could expand access to nutrition information to more restaurants by requiring nutrition information in all restaurants (including those with less then 20 outlets nationally) or on state or local property, such as in cafeterias in government office buildings, publically funded hospitals, state universities, road-side rest stops, and state park concessions.
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