By Carol Witte, RDN, Program Director of Nutrition Services and Senior Centers
Nutritional labeling, titled “Nutrition Facts” is on most of the food products we purchase to help us make better food choices. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set new guidelines similar to “Nutrition Facts” for chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments. By December 1, 2016, restaurants will be required to provide consumers with clear and consistent nutrition information that is easy to view and understand. It starts with posting calories on the menu and menu boards. Other nutrient information must be available in writing. They will also need to post a statement on menus and menu boards about the availability of additional written nutrition information.
Food establishments are affected if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations that have the same name and same menu items. Examples of restaurants and restaurant type foods with 20 or more locations could include the following:
- Sit-down and fast-food restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops and restaurant-type foods in certain grocery and convenience stores.
- Take-out and delivery foods, such as pizza.
- Foods purchased at drive-through windows.
- Foods that you serve yourself from a salad or hot-food bar.
- Alcoholic drinks such as cocktails when they appear on menus.
- Foods at places of entertainment, such as movie theaters.
What’s Not Covered?
- Foods sold at deli counters and those typically intended for more than one person.
- 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 school feeding programs.
- Certain foods purchased in grocery stores or other similar retail food establishments that are typically intended for more than one person to eat and require additional preparation before consuming, such as pounds of deli meats, cheeses, or large-size deli salads.
To help consumers put the calorie information in the context of their total daily diet, the rule calls for the following reminder to be included on menus and menu boards: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”
Vending machine rules, which take effect in two years, cover vending machines if their operator owns or operates 20 or more units. Under the new rule, calories must be listed on the front of the package or on a sign or sticker near the food or selection button.
Many individuals do not like to measure their calorie intake. They may feel it is not beneficial. In the big picture, however, it can make a big difference. Restaurants and food companies are trying to decrease sodium, saturated fat, trans fats and simple sugars because they are aware that consumers want healthier choices. They are also trying to increase healthier food choices on their menu that include lean protein sources, vegetables, fruits and grains which provide more fiber. The bottom line is to balance your food intake and make informed choices.
Remember you can always enjoy a healthy meal at one of our six Activity & Dining Centers. We post nutritional information about calories, fat, sodium and carbohydrates at our centers. Our menus are planned to provide at least one third of your recommended dietary allowances. Come join us for a healthy meal!