If you feel like you’re seeing more calorie info posted on your favorite restaurant menus, it’s because you are. In fact, it’s now required by the US Food and Drug Administration to list the calorie count of meals.
The calorie posting rule is aimed at getting Americans to make healthier choices when eating out, but Psychologist Susan Albers says that in order to keep from getting overwhelmed, it’s best to keep the information in perspective. “This is a tool; its intention is to help to educate; give people more information, but not to use it as a judgment. And, the hope is that it increases your awareness and you reach out for more education about nutrition.”
However, a recent study showed that only about half of the people in restaurants even notice calorie information when it’s listed in menus and when they do, it doesn’t always influence decision-making. Dr. Albers says many times, people will only have their decisions swayed by high-calorie items by either looking for a lower calorie choice or a smaller portion.
The first step is meant to increase awareness. Albers says, “What is likely to happen is that it’s going to open up conversation. So, we’re going to have a lot more awareness, and discussion about foods that we’re being served; how we make decisions; why we make those decisions and how to eat them in a more mindful way.”
The hope is that this information will at least get folks to be more mindful about their choices, but only time will tell if there will be a lasting impact.
Dr. Albers says research shows that people who struggle with disordered eating are often negatively impacted by calorie listings.
If you become overwhelmed or triggered by calorie information, she recommends meeting with a health professional who can help you develop a strategy to deal with these new calorie labels.