Menu Labeling Information for Consumers

Know Your Options When Eating Out

Know Your Options When Eating Out

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:

  1. Find out your calorie needs
  2. Look for calorie and nutrition information

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: 179KB).  

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?

Look for Calorie and Nutrition Information on MenusCalories 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
  • Bakeries
  • Ice cream shops
  • Self-service food locations, such as buffets and salad bars
  • Movie theaters
  • Amusement parks
  • Grocery/convenience stores

Look for Calorie and Nutrition Information on Menu BoardsWhere 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

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:

Two Choices
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. Sample Menu Labeling of Entrees

Page Last Updated: 05/29/2018
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