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Should Nutrition Info be on Menu Boards?

Nutrition Info menu board

Should Nutrition Info be on Menu Boards?

Take a moment and think about a BigMac – that extraordinarily popular hamburger produced by the fast food king, McDonalds.  Now, how much do you REALLY know about the BigMac? Can you estimate how many calories it contains? How about the grams of fat? Amount of sodium?

Can you estimate how many calories are in your favourite fast food burger? Click To Tweet

The Answer:  540 calories, 29g of fat and 1,020mg of sodium

So, how did your answers match up?

Research has shown that consumers are prone to underestimate the number of calories in restaurant food items. Surprised? Are you one of these people? If it makes you feel better, even nutrition professionals tend to underestimate calories in restaurant foods!

Now, in order to create a more informed consumer base, the US Congress has officially passed a law requiring restaurants chains (20 or more outlets) to list the calorie and selected nutrition information on menus and menu boards. Although Canada is lagging behind, the conversation has already begun.

However, the enduring question still remains to be seen- how will posting nutrition information on menus impact the health of the North American consumer?

Cheese Burger

We can look at this idea from two sides:

PRO: Knowledge is Power!

• Having the nutrition information posted will help consumers make educated decisions
-The shocking realization that certain food items are higher in calories may sway consumers to choose an alternate item
• Displaying nutrition information may also have a healthy influence on the food companies
– In order to boost or maintain sales companies may work harder to develop and provide new healthier options when forced to display the nutrition information

CON: Ignorance is Bliss 

• Displaying information on menus may not sway customers from ordering what they want or intended to order
• Information confusion:
-Even with the hype of nutrition and healthy eating, some people are unsure about what the nutrition information means.  Let’s go back to our familiar friend, the BigMac with 540 calories, 29g of fat and 1,020mg of sodium. Those numbers seem big but what do they really mean?

 Restaurant

Putting it in Perspective: 

For an average woman who needs 1800 calories a day, one BigMac hamburger would contribute 30% of her daily caloric needs50% of daily fat needs and 85% of daily salt. Seems like a lot for one hamburger doesn’t it?!  Remember, this is not including the side medium French fries (380 calories, 19 grams fat) and large Fruitopia (350 calories).  Looks like our lunch is now has hit around 1,300 calories!  Guess that doesn’t leave us much for dinner.  Now, do you wish food companies would list these numbers for you to at least know in advance?

Bottom Line:

Menu nutrition labeling is something we will (hopefully) start seeing a lot more of.  In my opinion, consumers should at least be informed and they can choose how or whether they will use the information.  Were we not always told that knowledge is power?  Then why not come together and demand to know the numbers so we can receive the power to choose the “healthier” alternative.