Calories on menus is a waste of your money

Part of the Affordable Care Act, affectionately known as Obamacare, and currently in the crosshairs of the sitting president (who he, himself, is politically in the crosshairs of his opposing and his own political parties) is labeling menus with calories. It was supposed to go into effect years ago, but has been delayed. It’s not as simple as was once believed it would be.

Were you looking forward to having calories per serving in your face everywhere you buy your ready-to-eat food? Did you want to know the calories in your popcorn at the movies or the calories in the sandwich you purchase at your supermarket deli counter? How about the calories for food in vending machines before you put in the cash and select D4 for the bag of candy?

Does it take a sign to recognize which is the greater source of calories?

Do you even care about how many calories you’re eating?

Are you one of the many who thinks the government should mandate that any place serving food has an obligation to tell us what the calories are for each of the items on they sell? Would seeing the calories change how you order? Is it not about how you order as much as how you’d like to see calorie information influence other people’s eating habits?

For some of us, calories on menus definitely affect our choices and are both helpful and welcome. For others, it would be something that makes no difference whatsoever. Judging by the results of food labeling on all packaged foods, calorie information is largely overlooked.

The cost of making the menus that display calories would be shared by all of us whether you want it or not. It would result in higher prices when dining out and fewer choices. I would prefer to skip the calorie information, rely on common sense, and keep prices where they are and in many cases that’s already too high.

Whether you want to see calories listed “wherever food is sold,” don’t want it, or don’t care, there’s been another delay. Menu labeling became a law in 2010 as part of the Affordable Health Care Act. The specifics were to be established with a final rule by the end of 2012 and to be put into action in 2014.

The rules will eventually require restaurants and other establishments that sell prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to post the calorie content of food “clearly and conspicuously” on their menus, menu boards and displays. It hasn’t happened yet. We don’t know if it will ever happen if the law is repealed.

Since that time there have been many changes and debates and, not surprisingly, fights, when it comes to where and how to apply the menu label law. There was, for example, fierce opposition from pizza and movie theater chains. Then the target was widened to include bars. Shouldn’t the calories in your favorite alcoholic beverage be plainly and clearly displayed? What about gas station/convenience stores that sell sandwiches and doughnuts to hungry travelers?

The law keeps getting farther and farther out of hand which is why the deadline for menu labeling keeps getting delayed. The Food and Drug Administration announced in March of this year that it will delay enforcement of menu labeling rules until sometime in 2017? Maybe they’ll finally enforce the law or delay it again and as far as I’m concerned, it won’t matter either way.

Those of us who care about what we eat and weight management will continue to use common sense when we order. I appreciate the venues that have already taken steps to post calorie information – Thank you, Panera Bread and McDonald’s (to name a few)

On the other hand, whether or not the law ever gets enforced will not do much to change Americans food choices or help them to weigh less. Labeling packaged foods in 1995 didn’t slim down the American population and early studies have indicated that menu labeling will be expensive, but ineffective.

Hasn't it been well-advertised that movie popcorn is loaded with fat and calories? Aren't movie goers aware that a bucket of buttered popcorn is going to send their daily total calories way up high?


If it’s really important to know how many calories are in your burgers, you can probably find out on the restaurant’s website. If the information is too hard to find you can either eat it anyway and err on the side of overestimating the calories or go somewhere else where they give you the information you want.




Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.