Routt County CSU Extension: Calorie labeling, coming to a menu near you
December 7, 2014
Bagels should be easy to order, yet on a recent trip to New York City, I was surprised at how involved it could be. Do I want a plain, poppy seed, everything or jalapeno bagel? Should it be served plain or with a schmear of cream cheese, hummus or butter?
The choices were overwhelming but what really put me into a spin was the numbers beside each of the options — plain bagel, 245; plain bagel with cream cheese, 300; plain bagel with light cream cheese, 275. Fleetingly, I thought that $245 was an outrageous cost for a plain bagel, even for New York City. Consider that reaction the first of many “country bumpkin goes to the city” moments for me in NYC.
Looking closer, I found that all of the restaurants in the city had calories labeled for every menu item. It turns out that New York City adopted calorie labeling in 2006, and since that time, other cities have followed its lead.
During my stay in the city, it was helpful to use the calorie labeling to compare items that I was thinking of eating. I found myself ordering a sandwich wrap instead of panini and choosing light cream cheese instead of regular. Best of all, it was helpful to have the calorie information at the point of ordering so that I could make an informed decision about my selections.
The same valuable calorie information now is going to be available nationwide at a restaurant near you. New calorie labeling requirements were announced last month that will make calorie content in eating establishments easier to find. As part of the Affordable Care Act, some restaurants will be required to clearly post the calorie information for items on their menus, including alcohol.
The new ruling states that chain restaurants with 20 or more establishments as well as movie theaters, convenience stores and grocery stores will all be labeling the calories on their offerings.
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This new calorie labeling requirement will be a benefit to the health of Americans who currently eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home.
But we still will have to be honest with ourselves about portion size when we eat out. Are you eating the same size portion as the menu describes? Calorie labels are no longer accurate when you eat half of the pizza instead of the two slices described on the menu. Your extra dollop of sour cream probably won't be reflected in that generic calorie count.
Next time you're dining out, keep a lookout for new menus with calories listed. Use this new information to start learning about those high calorie zingers that you might want to avoid. Knowing just how many calories are in that pina colada could prevent you from consuming unwanted extra calories.
Karen Massey is a registered dietitian nutritionist and family and consumer science Extension agent with Colorado State University Extension in Routt County. Call 970-879-0825 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.