McDonald's Adds Calorie Counts to Menus
You’ll never have to wonder how many calories a Big Mac or large order of fries will set you back again. Starting Monday, McDonald’s will list calorie counts on its in-store and drive-through menus nationwide.
“To its credit, McDonald’s is getting out in front of the other big burger chains and most other restaurants by putting calorie counts on its menu boards and drive-through menus—even before the federal requirement to do so kicks in,” said Margo Wooten, nutrition policy director at Center for Science in the Public Interest in a statement. “It’s a step that’s important for McDonald’s customers’ health, and it’s a sign that calorie counts on chain-restaurant menus are here to stay.”
Some cities and states, including New York City and California, already have laws mandating calorie labeling in chain restaurants, and chains such as Au Bon Pain and Panera have begun posting nutrition facts voluntarily. Additionally, a federal requirement for all chain restaurants to follow suit has been in the works, and may go into effect as early as next winter.
New York City-based registered dietician Marjorie Nolan believes the new menu labels could have a positive effect on diners. "People need to know this stuff," she says. "For those consumers who don't realize how many calories or how much fat are in these meals, this could be an advantage. Making the decision to order a small fry or regular burger instead of a large [as a result of the new calorie labels] could make a huge difference." She also believes the prominence of nutrition information on menus could eventually put McDonald's in a position to come up with additional healthier options.
Research is unclear whether menu labeling helps diners make healthier choices. A recent study did indicate that labeling can have an effect on what types of foods the restaurant offers. Eighteen months following a mandatory menu labeling regulation went into effect in King’s County, Washington, entrees had fewer calories and grams of saturated fat and sodium, according to a study published in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The chain’s decision comes on the heels of a couple of other health-oriented changes under the golden arches. Last year, McDonald's implemented healthier Happy Meals, which added apples to every meal and reduced the serving of French fries from 2.4 to 1.1 ounces. More recently, in response to criticism about Olympics commercials that associated the world’s most elite athletes with burgers and fries, the restaurant released a "Favorites Under 400 Calories Menu" to highlight lower-calorie options (though this was more of a change in appearance than in nutritional value).
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—Mary Squillace, associate editor
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