- Getting Nutrition Information When Eating Out
- Getting Restaurant Nutritional Data Right for Your Menu
- Where To Find Nutrition Information Online
- Visit The Company Website
- Search On Calorie King Or Nutritionx
- Estimate Appropriately
- Find A Recipe Online
- You Only Have To Look Once
- Nutrition Calculator
- MyFitnessPal can now help you find a restaurant based on how many calories you want to eat
- NOW WATCH: This 14-year-old makes up to $1,500 a night eating dinner in front of a webcam in South Korea
- A voluntary nutrition labeling program in restaurants: Consumer awareness, use of nutrition information, and food selection
Getting Nutrition Information When Eating Out
When you eat at home, you can figure out the calories, fat, sodium, and other nutrition information about your food by looking at the boxes and cans of ingredients and doing the math. But when you’re eating at a restaurant, figuring out whether various menu items will fit into your diet isn’t always easy.
Some restaurants help you learn more about their foods by posting nutrition information in their establishments and online. Some lawmakers are working to improve diners’ access to nutrition information when they’re seated at a restaurant. For example, in 2008, the New York City Board of Health required restaurant chains in the city with 15 or more outlets nationwide to post calorie information on their menus and menu boards.
In Washington state, the King County Board of Health passed legislation requiring restaurant chains with at least 15 locations to provide diners with nutrition information about their food, including calories, saturated fat, and sodium, on menu boards, signs, and pamphlets. Other cities across the country have been exploring similar requirements. In addition, federal legislation called the Menu Education and Label Act introduced in the summer of 2009 is intended to require chain restaurants with at least 20 locations to provide diners across the country with nutrition information.
Restaurant Nutrition Information: An Eye Opener
Access to nutrition information might startle restaurant patrons looking for foods that fit well into their diet. For example, a Dunkin’ Donuts “everything bagel” contains 360 calories — 100 calories more than a jelly-filled donut. McDonald’s “premium Southwest salad with crispy chicken” contains more calories (430) and sodium than a quarter-pounder (410).
“For those looking to manage their weight, I think it’s very helpful to have that information in front of you,” says Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian in Atlanta and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Not only does the nutrition information help restaurant goers tailor their choices to better fit their diet, it may help them cut back on calories at meals later in the day to account for their choices, Moore says.
Whether you’re eating in a restaurant that offers nutrition information or not, a few simple tips can help ensure that you make the best diet choices.
- Investigate online. Start your nutrition information search online, where you can get the facts from leading restaurant chains.
- Plan ahead. “I always say the best defense is to have a good offense. Have a meal in mind and you won’t have to ponder over the menu — you’re already ready with your choice,” says Moore. If you enjoyed, say, a salmon entrée with vegetables and a salad before, and the portions were sensible, perhaps that might be a good idea the next time you visit the same restaurant.
- Look at the big picture. “Let’s say you’re in New York or somewhere where calories are on the menu. Keep in mind that’s just the calorie level; it doesn’t really account for the amount of sodium or fat that you might get in the menu item,” Moore says. Order accordingly, using all your nutrition smarts to make the best choices.
- Scan your plate. “It’s difficult for most people to guesstimate the number of calories in a typical restaurant portion. My recommendation is to consider the plate method,” Moore says. If you’re in a restaurant that doesn’t provide nutrition information, limit the amount of protein and starch you eat — each portion should be equal to just a quarter of the plate; vegetables can take up the equivalent of half the plate. Just keep in mind that fried vegetables or those doused with butter or sauces probably are going to be high in calories.
Eating out at a restaurant is permissible when you’re on a diet as long as you plan ahead. And when in doubt about what to order, it’s hard to go wrong by asking for grilled chicken or fish and freshly steamed veggies.
Learn more in the Everyday Health Weight Center.
Finding the best nutrition calculator for restaurants is easy if you know what features to look for. Image credit: Unsplash user Katie Smith.
Just when our client thought he’d done it all as the owner of a successful restaurant chain in New Mexico and California, the FDA announced their new rule requiring chain restaurants to provide customers with calorie counts and nutrition information.
At first, the business owner didn’t have a clue how he was going to get this information, but after a little research, he found an online nutrition calculator that would help him determine calories and nutrients for his menu items. Eager to get everything finished by the May 2018 compliance date, he purchased the online software and got to work. But after a few hours, he found himself struggling with the technology and wishing he had done more research before committing to a nutrition calculator.
If calorie counts and nutrition calculators are new to you, there are some important things you need to know before investing in one. Finding the best nutrition calculator for restaurants can be tricky, but if you know what features to look for, you’ll be able to choose confidently, knowing it will help you get the job done quickly and easily.
The Nutrition Calculator for Restaurants Checklist
There are a lot of online nutrition calculators out there, but they aren’t all created equal. Some are difficult to navigate, others don’t provide accurate nutrition information, and many don’t give you everything you need in order to comply with the FDA’s guidelines.
So, to save you from wasting money on a faulty online nutrition calculator, I’ve created a checklist of features you should consider when assessing your options:
- FDA-Compliance: FDA-compliant nutrition calculators use database nutrition analysis with USDA nutrition information. Not only does this mean your calorie counts and nutrition values will be accurate, it also means it will generate all the nutrition information that the FDA requires and in the correct format (i.e. in compliance with the FDA rounding rules). Make sure the nutrition calculator specifically states that it is FDA-compliant somewhere on the website so you know it is credible.
- Confidentiality: When you are inputting your restaurant’s proprietary recipe information online, you want to make sure that nobody else will be able to see it. The best nutrition calculators keep your recipes safe by providing you with your own password-protected account and a PCI-compliant site that will encrypt your recipes, making them indecipherable to anyone else. You’ll also want to make sure your recipes are automatically backed up daily and that they can be instantly recovered.
- Ease of Use: Many nutrition calculators are difficult to use, so I recommend checking that the one you choose provides free video tutorials about how to use the software. That way, you can get an idea of how it works before you commit. Plus, they’ll help you a great deal when it comes to performing the nutrition analysis.
- A Free Trial: Even if you have the video tutorials, you don’t really get a good sense of a nutrition calculator until you use it yourself. If the software offers a free trial, take advantage of it! This way, you can test the features first-hand and see how easy it is to navigate.
- Add Proprietary Ingredients Feature: Even the best nutrition databases don’t always have all the ingredients you are looking for, throwing a wrench in your analysis. To avoid this, look for a nutrition calculator that allows you to add your own proprietary ingredients along with their nutrition info. For instance, if you use a certain type of tomato sauce that isn’t in the database, you can add it to the database by entering the name along with the information on its nutrition facts panel. Then, you are free to use it as an ingredient in your recipe!
- Duplicate Function: Many restaurants have different versions of the same recipe on their menu (i.e. wild mushroom risotto, spring pea risotto, and saffron risotto). A duplicate function allows you to make a copy of a recipe without having to re-enter each ingredient, thus saving you a ton of time.
Of course, every situation is unique and depending on your restaurant, certain features may be more or less important to you. Keeping these guidelines in mind, however, should help you find a high-quality nutrition calculator that will make complying with the FDA menu labeling rules quick and easy.
Other Factors to Consider Before You Buy
While the above features are the most important aspects of a quality nutrition calculator, there are a few less tangible elements I’d also recommend looking into before you settle on one. Reading testimonials from other restaurateurs can give you a good sense of how others found the software. Also, talking to a customer service representative and asking questions can help you decide whether that particular nutrition calculator is right for you.
Nutrition calculators aren’t free, so doing your research before committing will ensure you don’t waste time or money, like Jeremiah did. Luckily, though, he ended up purchasing an account with a much more credible, FDA-compliant online nutrition calculator. As such, he was able to finish his nutrition analysis quickly, easily, accurately, and in compliance with the FDA guidelines.
MenuCalc is an industry-leading, FDA-compliant online nutrition calculator used by busy restaurateurs to comply with the upcoming menu labeling law. To get started on your nutrition analysis, contact us today.
Know Your Options When Eating Out
- Eating Out and Eating Healthy – Just Got Easier
- Find Out Your Calorie Needs
- Look for Calorie and Nutrition Information
- Make the Best Choice for You
Eating Out and Eating Healthy – Just Got Easier
In today’s busy world, Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories from foods prepared away from home. In general, these foods provide more calories, sodium, and saturated fat than meals consumed at home. For the average adult, eating one meal away from home each week translates to roughly 2 extra pounds each year. Over the course of 5 years, that’s 10 extra pounds.
Calorie labeling on menus can help you make informed and healthful decisions about meals and snacks. So, beginning May 7, 2018, calories will be listed on many menus and menu boards of restaurants and other food establishments that are part of a chain of 20 or more locations. This will help you know your options and make it easier to eat healthy when eating out.
Here are steps for making dining out choices that are healthy and delicious:
- Find out your calorie needs
- Look for calorie and nutrition information
- Make the best choice for you
en Espanol (PDF: 940KB)
Find Out Your Calorie Needs
Knowing your calorie needs is important to managing your daily food and beverage choices. You can use 2,000 calories a day as a guide, but your calorie needs may vary based on your age, sex, and physical activity level.
To find out your specific calorie needs, use the Estimated Daily Calorie Needs table (PDF: 2.63MB).
Look for Calorie and Nutrition Information
You may have noticed calorie information on some menus or menu boards. Or maybe you have seen nutrition information on restaurant websites or on phone apps. This information can help you make informed and healthful meal and snack choices.
Where will I see the calories?
Calories are listed next to the name or price of the food or beverage on menus and menu boards, including drive-thru windows, and may be at the following types of chains:
- Chain restaurants
- Chain coffee shops
- Ice cream shops
- Self-service food locations, such as buffets and salad bars
- Movie theaters
- Amusement parks
- Grocery/convenience stores
Where will I NOT see calorie information?
- Foods sold at deli counters and typically intended for further preparation
- Foods purchased in bulk in grocery stores, such as loaves of bread from the bakery section
- Bottles of liquor displayed behind a bar
- Food in transportation vehicles, such as food trucks, airplanes, and trains
- Food on menus in elementary, middle, and high schools that are part of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program
- Restaurants and other establishments that are not part of a chain of 20 or more
What about meals with multiple options?
When a menu item is available in different flavors or varieties (for example, vanilla and chocolate ice cream), or includes an entrée with your choice of side items, such as a sandwich that comes with either chips, side salad, or fruit, the calorie amounts will be shown as follows:
Calories are separated by a slash
(for example 250/350 calories)
Three or More Choices
Calories are shown in a range
(for example 150-300 calories)
Will information about other nutrients also be available?
In addition to calorie information, covered establishments are also required to provide written nutrition information such as saturated fat, sodium, and dietary fiber to consumers upon request. So, when eating out, don’t hesitate to ask for more nutrition information if you need it.
Make the Best Choice for You
Eating healthy comes down to personal choices. Try these tips to help you make the best choices for you and your family.
Comparing calorie and nutrition information can help you make better decisions before you order.
Side dishes can add many calories to a meal. Steamed, grilled, or broiled vegetables and fruit are often lower-calorie options. With calorie information, you can make the best choice for you.
Calorie information can help you decide how much to enjoy now and how much to save for later.
Asking for sauces or salad dressings on the side lets you choose how much to use.
Foods described with words like creamy, fried, breaded, battered, or buttered are typically higher in calories than foods described as baked, roasted, steamed, grilled, or broiled. Use calorie information to help you make the choice that is right for you.
Calories from beverages can add up quickly. With calorie information, you can find lower-calorie options.
For Additional Information
- Nutrition Education Resources and Materials
- Menu Labeling Requirements
- Menu Labeling Social Media Toolkit for Consumer Outreach
- Menu Labeling Presentation Slides for Consumers
Getting Restaurant Nutritional Data Right for Your Menu
In May 2017, FDA guidelines will require nutritional menu labeling for specific kinds of restaurants throughout the United States. Specifically, menus should include calorie information for each item and be prepared to offer additional printed restaurant nutritional data per customer request.
The restaurants that are required by law to comply are…
- Part of a chain of 20 locations or more
- Doing business under the same brand name as those 20+ locations
- Offering a consistent menu across all locations
However, many restaurants that don’t fall under the requirements are still adding menu labeling themselves. A big reason for this push is the trend of transparency and authenticity in food.
Many consumers want to know exactly what they’re putting into their bodies when they go out to eat. They don’t want to be blind to their own eating choices, especially when they’re not making the food themselves. On top of that, customers want to feel they can trust the businesses they support – being open about what your menu is really like encourages that trust in your brand.
And menu labeling doesn’t mean your calorie-heavy items will get rejected by the masses if you list its restaurant nutritional data – many customers will still order those kinds of dishes, but appreciate the transparency between business and consumer.
If you’re planning to include nutritional labeling in your restaurant’s menu, there are a few ways to calculate those numbers for each dish. What you choose depends on the size of your menu, your budget, and your staff.
Analysis from Nutritional Laboratories
Let’s start with the most thorough route – working with a nutritional laboratory to analyze your various dishes. These are professionals, scientists with extensive backgrounds in testing ingredients who are trained specifically to help provide restaurants with accurate nutritional analysis.
They can also test not just a dish as a whole, but each of the components – so if you want to, say, include how many calories the salad dressing serving is compared to the rest of the chopped salad, a nutrition lab can get you that information. Ideally, this is the choice you’d want to go with, but admittedly it’s also the most expensive (especially if you have a particularly large menu).
If you go with a nutritional laboratory, make sure you have finalized your menu for the immediate future before you go through the process – it’ll be more frustrating if you invest in the services of a nutritional laboratory now and then totally change up your menu in six months.
On top of finalizing your menu, you’re going to have to remain consistent with your suppliers. For instance, if you go to a lab and use a certain brand of tomato sauce for the lasagna you’ve tested, later switching over to a generic sauce brand will change the nutritional value. If you can, go with a company that has a built-in tolerance for such changes.
Also, like with any other vendor or partnership, make sure you thoroughly research the nutritional labs in your area to find one that can meet your requirements and has been found trustworthy by other restaurants.
Computerized Nutrition Vendor
Getting computerized nutrition analysis is a similar but less specialized option compared to lab testing. The computer analysis is still done by a professional who is highly experienced in culinary science. This choice also allows for easier adjustments if you decide to adjust any recipes down the line.
Like lab testing, off-site computer analysis is still on the expensive side – it can be worth it for many restaurants (especially restaurants that fall into these FDA guidelines and need to have their menu labeling up as soon as possible), but make sure to look at your finances to ensure you have the funds to do so.
Going outside your company is often a good idea, but it’s not the only solution to your menu labeling problem. Look at the software you already use in your kitchen! Many software programs for costing out dishes include a nutrition function as well.
The great thing about this is that you can potentially do all nutrition analysis in house, the software itself is relatively cheaper than the earlier options. But be aware that this software does require someone among your staff to be trained in certain areas of culinary nutrition in order to use the program properly.
If you’re choosing to train from your current workforce, this staff member should ideally be within a managerial level position in your business, and their wages should reflect this additional aspect of their job. It’s also important in this case to check with your legal counsel to decide if you should add any conditions to your public position of the restaurant nutritional data.
Some other things to consider
There are also more less accurate ways some restaurants have chosen to calculate restaurant nutritional data information, like going off of the nutritional info mentioned in cookbook recipes. Despite how easy it can be to buy a cookbook (or even just search for a recipe online) and use the listed nutritional information, this is not advisable for a few reasons.
For one, unless you’re already using the cookbook, you’d basically have to change your menu to fit the cookbook in order to accurately reflect the ingredients and amounts. For another, you’d have to trust that the cookbook is offering you accurate nutritional data for each dish (it very well could be wrong).
And finally, you’d have to ensure that your staff is making the recipe exactly how that specific cookbook says to. In general, while it seems like a cheaper way to go about it, it could just be a mess and leave you needing a different option.
Another important note: once you’ve calculated this information and have included it on your menus, it’s crucial that the menu items continue to reflect that information. That means training your kitchen staff to be diligent in consistently making your recipes the same every single time they make a dish. Not only will this ensure you’re telling your customers the right information about what they’ll be eating, but it will also help make sure that your diner gets the right flavors for that dish every time they order it.
Want to be prepared for this cost burden — and a few more coming your way this year? Download our free ebook to find out “What’s Eating at Your Restaurant Cash Flow” and what you can do about it:
Where To Find Nutrition Information Online
When trying to stick to a diet, one of the best approaches that we’ve found for our clients is food logging.
Yes, it can seem like a bit of a pain in the ass at first, but it works and is incredibly effective once you get used to it.
Over the last few years, food logging has actually gotten considerably easier, due to the introduction of many (often free) logging apps and websites.
These include Fatsecret, MyFitnessPal, CRON-O-Meter, and FitDay, just to name a couple of the big ones.
However, one challenge that our clients sometimes have is where to find the nutrition information for the foods that they’ve eaten.
When you are eating cooked meals at home, this is all pretty straightforward.
All of the nutrition info is either listed on the packaging, which you’ll then enter into your logging apps if it’s not already listed in there.
For other foods, like meats, you can often simply log the generic version that is already in the system.
For instance, you would log a lean chicken breast as “chicken breast, boneless, skinless” in Fatsecret, selecting the appropriate weight in oz or grams for the amount you ate.
However, there are other cases where you may not know the nutrition of the food you ate.
The High Protein Cheat Sheet
If you want to build muscle and strength, getting enough protein is key. The High Protein Cheat Sheet is a handy reference guide that shows you which foods are highest in protein, so you can easily add more protein to your diet!
This often happens when eating out at restaurants, or even with packaged foods that you don’t have the nutrition info for.
In this article, I’m going to walk through a couple of methods that I use myself – and advise my clients to use – to find nutrition information online, so that you can log your food as accurately as possible.
Visit The Company Website
Now many items from popular chain restaurants are already listed in most of the food logging apps, so all you’ll typically have to do is search for them and select what you ate.
However, there are also cases where what you ate may not be listed in your logging app of choice.
In these situations, the first thing that I would do is to visit the website of the restaurant or the manufacturer of the food item.
For chain restaurants, you will be able to find the nutrition info almost 100% of the time on their website (this is often legally mandated).
So if you ate at Ruby Tuesday, and that delicious Pretzel Burger you had wasn’t listed in your logging app, then you would simply head over to www.rubytuesday.com and poke around until you found the section that listed the nutritional info.
Alternatively, you could just do a search in Google for “ruby tuesday nutrition” and you’ll usually be able to find it that way very quickly.
Then, you would simply find what you ate, and manually enter the calories and macros for it in your logging app that one time.
This can take a couple minutes, but it will then be added to the database so in the future you’ll just be able to search for it quickly and log it like you would anything else.
Now while this is most effective for large, chain restaurants, you’d be surprised at how many smaller, local restaurants are starting to list their nutrition info on their websites as well.
Pretty much every small business has a website these days, so just search for the business name on Google, find their website, and poke around to see if they list their nutrition.
Search On Calorie King Or Nutritionx
Now if you can’t find what you ate on the restaurant’s website, then the next step is to use one of the independent nutrition websites.
For this, I would recommend searching for what you ate on both Calorie King and Nutritionix.
In many cases, you’ll be able to find the calorie and macronutrient info for what you ate on at least one of these 2 sites.
Then, once you’ve found it, just enter it in your food logging app like you normally would, and you’re good to go.
Now sometimes you just won’t be able to find nutrition information online for what you ate.
It may be that you ordered something from a small, local place, or that you are trying to log a home-cooked meal (that you didn’t cook).
In these cases, the best thing that you can do is to try and find an appropriate stand-in item for what you ate.
So if you ate a cheeseburger from your favorite diner, you can potentially just log that as “cheeseburger” (which your logging app should already have nutrition info for).
This won’t be as accurate as finding the actual nutrition information for that particular burger, but it is obviously better than nothing.
Another option in this case would be to try to log all of the obvious ingredients separately, which should give you a more accurate idea of what you ate.
For instance, you might log that diner cheeseburger as 8oz of beef (80% lean), 1 slice of cheddar cheese, and 1 hamburger bun.
Find A Recipe Online
Finally, there are going to be times where you eat something and you have no idea how to log it!
There is nothing listed for it in your favorite food logging app, the restaurant doesn’t have any nutritional information on their website, and there is nothing remotely relevant on Calorie King and Nutritionx.
This can often happen with more obscure dishes, where it is unlikely that someone else would have previously entered a comparable dish in your logging app of choice.
For instance, I had a client that liked to eat Korean food. One of the dishes he ate was called “Jam Bong Soup”, and he had no clue how to log it.
In these cases, the best thing to do is to search for someone’s recipe for that same dish online.
This will often yield a full list of ingredients for something that is pretty similar to what you ate – and then you can just log each of those ingredients separately as a rough approximation of your meal.
You Only Have To Look Once
Now all of this may sound fairly time consuming…
When food logging, most people just want to type in what they ate (or scan the bar code), and be done with it.
Thankfully, you can do this in 95% of cases – however, in that other 5%, by spending 5-10 minutes using one of the above strategies you can generally get a good sense of what you ate.
And the best part is, you only have to do this once.
When you have that same dish again in the future, you’ll already have nutritional info for it saved in your logging app, so you’ll be able to quickly log it again the second time around in a matter of seconds.
What are your favorite sources of nutrition information online? Share them with us in the comments below.
This page provides questions and answers on the menu and vending machines labeling requirements.
- Consumer Questions & Answers
- Industry Questions & Answers
- Vending Machine Operator Questions & Answers
For more information see, Menu and Vending Machines Labeling Requirements Main Page.
Consumer Questions & Answers
C1. Where will I see calorie labeling?
Calorie and other nutrition labeling will be required for standard menu items offered for sale in a restaurant or similar retail food establishment that is part of a chain with 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. A restaurant or similar retail food establishment is generally defined as a retail establishment that offers for sale “restaurant type food,” which is generally food that is usually eaten on the premises, while walking away, or soon after arriving at another location. Specific examples of restaurant-type foods covered, when offered by a chain with 20 or more locations, include:
- Meals from sit-down restaurants
- Foods purchased at drive-through windows
- Take-out food, such as pizza
- Foods, such as made-to-order sandwiches, ordered from a menu or menu board at a grocery store or delicatessen
- Foods you serve yourself from a salad or hot food bar at a restaurant or grocery store
- A muffin at a bakery or coffee shop
- Popcorn purchased at a movie theater or amusement park
- A scoop of ice cream, milk shake or sundae from an ice cream store
Foods in covered vending machines also will have to carry calorie labeling that can be viewed before purchase, subject to certain exceptions.
C2. Will I see the new labeling soon?
Some establishments are already voluntarily posting nutrition information, but restaurants and similar retail food establishments covered by the menu labeling final rule have until May 7, 2018 to comply with the rule’s requirements.
It’s important to remember that only restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, and offering for sale substantially the same menu items are covered by the menu labeling final rule. Restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are not covered by the rule, such as a restaurant that is part of a chain with fewer than 20 locations, can voluntarily register to be subject to the final rule’s requirements.
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C3. Will I easily find the posted information about calories?
Yes. Calories must be clear and prominent on menus and menu boards and on signs next to self-service foods and foods on display. For calorie declarations on menus and menu boards, the size of the calorie declaration must be no smaller than the size of the name or the price of the menu item it refers to, whichever is smaller. In general such calorie declarations must be in the same color, or a similar color as that used for the name of the associated menu item. The menu labeling rule also provides specific type size, color, and contrast requirements for calorie declarations on signs next to self-service foods and foods on display.
C4. Are food trucks covered under the menu labeling rule?
Food trucks are not covered by the menu labeling requirements.
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C5. I tend to order combination meals, such as a meal that includes a choice of sandwich, side item and beverage. Will this also be covered under the menu labeling rule?
Yes. Covered establishments must declare calories for combination meals, which come with more than one food item, that are standard menu items. In general, the calorie declaration includes the total calories for all food items that make up the combination meal, and, the way the calories must be displayed depends on how many choices are listed on the menu or menu board for menu items in the combination meal. When the menu or menu board lists three or more choices for menu items in a combination meal (e.g., a sandwich with chips, a side salad, or fruit), the calories must be declared as a range, such as 450-700 calories. When the menu or menu board lists two choices for menu items in a combination meal (e.g., a sandwich with chips or a side salad), the calories must be declared as a slash, such as 350/450 calories.
C6. What nutritional information other than calories will be available?
A statement is required on menus and menu boards declaring “additional nutrition information available upon request.” The following written nutrition information is required to be available to consumers upon their request: total calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein. The statement regarding the availability of the additional written nutrition information must be posted prominently and in a clear and conspicuous manner. The written nutrition information can be provided on posters, tray liners, signs, counter cards, handouts, booklets and computers or kiosks. Additional nutrition information is not required for foods sold in vending machines.
Also, in addition to listing calories, covered restaurants and similar retail food establishments will be required to post on menus and menu boards a short statement about daily caloric intake – “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” This statement is meant to enable consumers to understand the calorie information provided on menus and menu boards within the context of a total daily diet.
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C7. How will the nutrition content of food served in restaurants or similar retail food establishments be determined?
An establishment covered by the menu labeling rule must have a reasonable basis for its nutrient content declarations. Nutrient content declarations can be based on information obtained from nutrient databases, cookbooks, laboratory analyses, the Nutrition Facts label, and other reasonable means. In addition, a covered establishment must take reasonable steps to ensure that the method of preparation and amount of a standard menu item adheres to the factors on which nutrient values were determined.
C8. Are there additional options for children’s menus under the menu labeling final rule?
A separate succinct statement may be used on children’s menus as a substitute for or in addition to the general succinct statement (“2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary”) designed to enable consumers to understand, in the context of a total daily diet, the significance of the calorie information provided on such menus. The rule allows the use of the following to be used on menus and menu boards targeted to children:
- “1,200 to 1,400 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice for children ages 4 to 8 years, but calorie needs vary.”
- “1,200 to 1,400 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice for children ages 4 to 8 years and 1,400 to 2,000 calories a day for children 9 to 13 years, but calorie needs vary.”
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C9. If I order an alcoholic beverage, will the calories be listed?
Yes, if the alcoholic beverage is a standard menu item that is listed on a menu or a menu board. The majority of comments supported covering alcohol due to impacts on public health. In some instances, information may be presented in ranges for beer and wine rather than for each specific offering.
C10. Can restaurants and similar retail food establishments not covered under the requirements voluntarily choose to be covered?
Yes. Restaurants and similar retail food establishments not covered under the requirements (for example, those with fewer than 20 locations or machines) can voluntarily register to be covered by the new requirements.
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Industry Questions & Answers
I1. How do I know if my business is covered by the final rule?
To be covered by the final rule, an establishment must meet certain criteria. First, the establishment must be a restaurant or similar retail food establishment, as defined in the rule. Next, the establishment must: (1) be part of a chain of 20 or more locations, (2) doing business under the same name, and (3) offering for sale substantially the same menu items.
Establishments such as restaurants that are quick service and/or sit-down, food take-out facilities, pizza delivery establishments, food facilities in entertainment venues (e.g., movie theaters, bowling alleys), cafeterias, coffee shops, superstores, grocery and convenience stores, are covered if they meet the criteria listed above.
School cafeterias serving foods through USDA school lunch and breakfast programs are not covered by the menu labeling final rule. Transportation vehicles, such as food trucks, planes and trains, are also not covered. Food facilities located in universities and colleges are covered if they meet the criteria listed above.
I2. What exactly will be required by my food establishment?
Covered restaurants and similar retail food establishments are now required: (1) to disclose calorie information on menus and menu boards for standard menu items; (2) post a succinct statement (see below) concerning suggested daily caloric intake on menus and menu boards; and (3) post on menus and menu boards a statement that written nutrition information is available upon request. The final rule requires that the following written nutrition information for standard menu items be provided to consumers upon request: total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein.
In addition, calorie information must be declared on signs adjacent to foods on display and self-serve foods that are standard menu items.
The FDA is requiring a succinct statement that says, “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary” to be included on menus and menu boards. An optional separate statement can be used on children’s menus and menu boards as a substitute for or in addition to the succinct statement.
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I3. How is restaurant-type food defined?
“Restaurant-type food” is generally defined as food usually eaten on the premises, while walking away, or soon after arriving at another location and either served in the establishment or processed and prepared primarily in the establishment. Examples include: meals from sit-down restaurants; foods purchased at drive-through windows; take-out food; food ordered from a menu/menu board at a grocery store; foods you serve yourself from a salad or hot food bar at a restaurant or grocery store; a muffin at a bakery or coffee shop; popcorn purchased at a movie theater or amusement park; and a scoop of ice cream, milk shake or sundae from an ice-cream store. Establishments serving restaurant-type food must also meet the other criteria to be covered: (1) be part of a chain of 20 or more locations, (2) doing business under the same name, and (3) offering for sale substantially the same menu items.
Foods that would generally not be covered under the definition of “restaurant-type” food include certain items purchased in a grocery store or other similar retail food establishment that are eaten over several occasions or stored for later use (e.g., a loaf of bread, bags/boxes of rolls), foods that are typically intended for more than one person to eat or require additional preparation before consuming (e.g., pounds of deli meats and cheeses, large-size deli salads), and certain foods bought from bulk bin cases in grocery stores (e.g., nuts, dried fruits, olives from bulk bins).
I4. Will I have to determine and provide the nutrition content of the food I am serving? How will I do that?
Yes. A covered establishment must have a reasonable basis for its nutrient content declarations and take reasonable steps to ensure that the method of preparation and amount of a standard menu item adheres to the factors on which nutrient values were determined. Nutrient values can be determined by using nutrient databases, cookbooks, laboratory analyses, the Nutrition Facts Label on packaged foods, and other reasonable means.
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I5. Will I have to implement the new menu labeling soon?
In May 2017, the FDA extended the compliance date to May 7, 2018 for restaurants and similar retail food establishments to comply with the menu labeling final rule’s requirements. Establishments covered by the rule that are already posting nutrition information will have to be sure their labeling complies with the new requirements.
I6. Will I have to substantiate the nutrient values I use for my nutrition labeling?
Upon request from the FDA, covered establishments must provide information to FDA substantiating the nutrient values, including the method and data used to derive such values. In addition to other information needed depending on the basis used to determine nutrient values, a signed/dated statement is generally needed (1) to certify that the information contained in the nutrient analysis is accurate and complete and (2) that the covered establishment has taken reasonable steps to ensure the method of preparation and the amount of the standard menu item offered for sale adhere to the factors on which its nutrient values were determined.
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I7. How are menus and menu boards defined?
“Menus” and “menu boards” are defined as the primary writing of the covered establishment from which a customer makes an order selection. These include, but are not limited to, breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus; dessert menus; beverage menus; children’s menus; other specialty menus; electronic menus; and online menus.
I8. What is the general format for declaring calories and posting the succinct statement on menus and menu boards?
The number of calories contained in each standard menu item listed on the menu or menu board must be listed: (1) next to the name or the price of the associated standard menu item; (2) in a type size no smaller than that of the name or the price of the associated standard menu item, whichever is smaller; (3) in the same color, or a color at least as conspicuous as that used for the name of the associated standard menu item; and (4) with the same contrasting background or a background at least as contrasting as that used for the name of the associated standard menu item.
The succinct statement must be posted: (1) prominently and in a clear and conspicuous manner; (2) in a type size no smaller than that of any calorie declaration appearing on the same menu or menu board; (3) in the same color or in a color at least as conspicuous as that used for the calorie declarations; and (4) with the same contrasting background or a background at least as contrasting as that used for the calorie declarations.
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I9. Will I have to list calories for alcoholic beverages being served at my bar and restaurant?
Yes, if the alcoholic beverage is a standard menu item that is listed on a menu or menu board. The majority of comments supported having alcohol beverages covered under the final rule due to impacts on public health. In some instances, the rule provides flexibility for beer and wine and allows for calorie ranges to be rather than individual calorie counts for each offering. We note that the requirements of the FDA Final Rule do not apply to temporary menu items, i.e., foods that appear on a menu or menu board for less than a total of 60 days per calendar year (e.g., a seasonal craft beer).
I10. Can restaurants or similar retail food establishments not covered under the requirements voluntarily choose to be covered?
Yes. Restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are not covered under the requirements (for example, those with fewer than 20 locations) can voluntarily register with FDA to comply with the new requirements.
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I11. Instead of following these federal requirements for menu labeling, can I choose to follow my state’s nutrition labeling requirements for food sold in my restaurants or similar retail establishments?
The law specifies that State or local governments cannot have nutrition labeling requirements for foods sold in establishments covered by the final rule, unless such requirements are identical to the federal requirements.
Under the rule, consumers will have consistent nutrition information available to them whenever they eat out in covered establishments. In addition, companies that are covered by the requirements won’t have to display different nutrition labeling depending on the geographical location.
Restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are not covered under the federal requirements would remain subject to applicable State or local nutrition labeling requirements, unless they choose to voluntarily register with FDA to comply with the federal nutrition labeling requirements.
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Vending Machine Operator Questions & Answers
V1. How will I be able to know if my business is covered by the final rule?
The requirement for calorie labeling for foods sold in vending machines applies to a person who is engaged in the business of owning or operating 20 or more vending machines. Additionally, vending machine operators who are not subject to the calorie labeling requirement may voluntarily register with FDA to be covered by the rule.
V2. What types of vending machines are covered?
The rule defines “vending machine” to mean “a self-service machine that, upon insertion of a coin, paper currency, token, card, or key, or by optional manual operation, dispenses servings of food in bulk or in packages, or prepared by the machine, without the necessity of replenishing the machine between each vending operation.”
In general, the final rule’s definition of “vending machine” could encompass – but not be limited to – those vending machines that sell soft drinks, packaged snacks, hot-and-cold cup beverages, refrigerated prepared food (such as those sold from turnstile vending machines), and handfuls of nuts or candies (such as those sold from bulk vending machines). Game machines are not covered, even if they sometimes dispense candy or other edible items as part of the game.
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V3. Where does the calorie information have to be posted?
In general, the calorie declarations can be placed on a sign (which can be a sticker) close to the article of food or selection button (i.e., in, on, or adjacent to the vending machine). The sign does not necessarily need to be attached to the vending machine as long as the calorie declaration is visible at the same time as the food, its name, price, selection button, or selection number is visible. The sign must provide calorie declarations for articles of food that are sold from that particular vending machine. The final rule also permits electronic or digital displays of the calorie information.
V4. When is food exempt from the calorie labeling requirements?
If the article of food is sold from a glass-front vending machine that permits the consumer to examine the Nutrition Facts label before purchase, or otherwise provides visible nutrition information at the point of purchase (e.g., through front of pack calorie labeling), then no further calorie labeling is required for such food. On July 12, 2018, FDA published a proposed rule. In this proposed rule, FDA is proposing that when using front of pack labeling to provide visible nutrition information, the type size of the calorie declaration on the front of the package be at least 150 percent (one and one-half times) the size of the net quantity of contents (i.e., net weight) declaration on the package of the vended food. FDA is accepting comments on this proposed rule, as well as alternative approaches to providing visible front of pack calorie information at the point of purchase.
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V5. What is the general format for the calorie declarations?
Calorie declarations for covered vending machine food must be clear, conspicuous and prominently placed. When the calorie declaration is in or on the vending machine, it must be:
In a type size no smaller than the name of the food on the machine (not the food label), selection number, or price of the food as displayed on the vending machine, whichever is smallest;
- Displayed with the same prominence, meaning the same color, or a color at least as conspicuous, as the color of the name or price of the food or selection number; and
- Set against the same contrasting background, or a background at least as contrasting as the background used for the item it is in close proximity to, i.e., name, selection number, or price of the food item as displayed on the machine.
When the calorie declaration is on a sign adjacent to the vending machine, the calorie declaration must be (1) in a type size large enough to render it likely to be read and understood by the consumer under customary conditions of purchase and use, and (2) in a type that is all black or one color on a white or other neutral background that contrasts with the type color.
V6. How will I determine the calorie content for the foods in my vending machines?
Covered vending machine operators may rely on a number of ways to determine the calorie content for foods sold in their vending machines, including the food package’s Nutrition Facts Label, the manufacturer or supplier of the food, nutrient databases, cookbooks, or laboratory analyses.
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V7. How long will I have to implement the new calorie labeling requirement?
Vending machines operators were required to meet most vending machine labeling requirements by December 1, 2016. FDA extended the implementation date for foods sold from glass-front vending machines that have calorie declarations on the front of the package and for gums, mints and roll candy in packages that are too small to bear front-of-package labeling to July 26, 2018. After July 26, 2018, FDA intends to exercise enforcement discretion at least until January 1, 2020, with respect to these foods.
V8. How will the final rule be enforced?
Covered vending machine operators must disclose their contact information on the vending machines, and FDA will use such information to contact operators for enforcement purposes. Failure to comply with the rule will render covered vending machine food misbranded under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
We anticipate that vending machine operators are likely to generate and maintain a record of the information regarding how they determined the calorie content for covered vending machine foods. The FDA encourages them to be prepared to share the record of information with the agency upon request during an inspection if FDA needs to determine whether the calorie declarations posted by a vending machine operator under the final rule are truthful and not misleading.
V9. Can vending machine operators not covered under the requirements voluntarily choose to be covered?
Yes. Vending machine operators not covered under the requirements (for example, those who own or operate fewer than 20 machines) can voluntarily register to comply with the new requirements.
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At McDonald’s, we take great care to serve quality, great-tasting menu items to our customers each and every time they visit our restaurants. We understand that each of our customers has individual needs and considerations when choosing a place to eat or drink outside their home, especially those customers with food allergies. As part of our commitment to you, we provide the most current ingredient information available from our food suppliers for the eight most common allergens as identified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (eggs, dairy, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish), so that our guests with food allergies can make informed food selections. However, we also want you to know that despite taking precautions, normal kitchen operations may involve some shared cooking and preparation areas, equipment and utensils, and the possibility exists for your food items to come in contact with other food products, including allergens. We encourage our customers with food allergies or special dietary needs to visit www.mcdonalds.com for ingredient information, and to consult their doctor for questions regarding their diet. Due to the individualized nature of food allergies and food sensitivities, customers’ physicians may be best positioned to make recommendations for customers with food allergies and special dietary needs. If you have questions about our food, please reach out to us directly at mcdonalds.com/contact or 1-800-244-6227.
Percent Daily Values (DV) and RDIs are based on unrounded values.
** Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The nutrition information on this website is derived from testing conducted in accredited laboratories, published resources, or from information provided from McDonald’s suppliers. The nutrition information is based on standard product formulations and serving sizes. Calories for fountain beverages are based on standard fill levels plus ice. If you use the self-service fountain inside the restaurant for your drink order, see the sign posted at the beverage fountain for beverage calories without ice. All nutrition information is based on average values for ingredients and is rounded in accordance with current U.S. FDA NLEA regulations. Variation in serving sizes, preparation techniques, product testing and sources of supply, as well as regional and seasonal differences may affect the nutrition values for each product. In addition, product formulations change periodically. You should expect some variation in the nutrient content of the products purchased in our restaurants. Beverage sizes may vary in your market. McDonald’s USA does not certify or claim any of its US menu items as Halal, Kosher or meeting any other religious requirements. We do not promote any of our US menu items as vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free. Our fried menu items are cooked in a vegetable oil blend with citric acid added as a processing aid and dimethylpolysiloxane to reduce oil splatter when cooking. This information is correct as of January 2019, unless stated otherwise.
MyFitnessPal can now help you find a restaurant based on how many calories you want to eat
One of my favourite food and nutrition apps, MyFitnessPal, is taking on one of the biggest battles of the bulge: calorie counts from restaurant meals.
But it wants to do more than just tell you how badly you blew your diet after you down that giant burger and plate of fries.
It wants to help you decide which restaurants are near you with menu items that meet your calorie and nutrition goals.
You can, for instance, see that within 1 mile of you is a place that serves pasta dishes that are all over 600 calories but 5 miles away there’s a pizza place that has a bunch of options for 200 calories a slice.
Almost half of its 100 million users eat out at least once per week, it says and in a recent survey of its users, nearly everyone said they would use nutrition info before ordering, if it were available.
“Our users have given the feedback for years that they wanted a feature that could help them make more healthy choices while dining at restaurants. We are excited that we can deliver on this goal now,” Albert Lee, Cofounder of MyFitnessPal, told Business Insider.
So far the company has gathered calorie and nutrition data from 500,000 restaurants nationwide, and not all of them are from chains or in huge cities like San Francisco and New York.
It had menu items from several popular local eateries in my small town. (If it doesn’t have your favourite restaurant, you can easily request it.)
MyFitnessPal worked with Foursquare to get most of the menu data, a spokesperson says. If the restaurant provides nutritional data online, it uses that data in the app. If the eatery doesn’t, MyFitnessPal is using data science to calculate an estimate of the calories and nutrition.
The new feature, still in beta, is only available in the iOS app right now (they are working on it for Android) and it’s a little hard to find.
From within the app, tap the blue “plus” button, tap food, and pick a meal you’d like to log.
Then tap the location icon to the right of the search bar.
That brings you to a page that looks like this. Click “view restaurants.”
If you don’t see any nearby restaurants you have two options: expand the map area or tell it it to search a specific area.
I was surprised to find menu information for several local eateries in my town. I clicked on one. It not only estimates calorie data but fat, protein, carbs, sugar, fibre, sodium, and other metrics you might be tracking.
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A voluntary nutrition labeling program in restaurants: Consumer awareness, use of nutrition information, and food selection
Health Check (HC) was a voluntary nutrition labeling program developed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada as a guide to help consumers choose healthy foods. Items meeting nutrient criteria were identified with a HC symbol. This study examined the impact of the program on differences in consumer awareness and use of nutritional information in restaurants. Exit surveys were conducted with 1126 patrons outside four HC and four comparison restaurants in Ontario, Canada (2013). Surveys assessed participant noticing of nutrition information, influence of nutrition information on menu selection, and nutrient intake. Significantly more patrons at HC restaurants noticed nutrition information than at comparison restaurants (34.2% vs. 28.1%; OR = 1.39; p = 0.019); however, only 5% of HC restaurant patrons recalled seeing the HC symbol. HC restaurant patrons were more likely to say that their order was influenced by nutrition information (10.9% vs. 4.5%; OR = 2.96, p < 0.001); and consumed less saturated fat and carbohydrates, and more protein and fibre (p < 0.05). Approximately 15% of HC restaurant patrons ordered HC approved items; however, only 1% ordered a HC item and mentioned seeing the symbol in the restaurant in an unprompted recall task, and only 4% ordered a HC item and reported seeing the symbol on the item when asked directly. The HC program was associated with greater levels of noticing and influence of nutrition information, and more favourable nutrient intake; however, awareness of the HC program was very low and differences most likely reflect the type of restaurants that “self-selected” into the program.