Should Restaurants Disclose Calories in their Food?

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

Do you wish restaurants would be a little more revealing about the nutrition information for their products? I support showing at least the calorie count right on the menu.

In 2009, one year after NYC implemented their mandatory restaurant labeling, I went there for the Fancy Food Show. I was shocked by what I saw when I looked at the menu at Ruby Tuesday. Almost every item on the menu was over 1,000 calories – some were closer to 2,000! The lowest-calorie items was a salad that still clocked in at over 700 calories! I ended up ordering an entree with all the sauces on the side.

In the province of British Columbia (BC), restaurants don’t have to show the calorie count of their dishes on the menu, but the Heart and Stroke Foundation is trying to encourage them to do so. And, if you’re dining at a chain restaurant, you can use an existing database on The Vancouver Sun’s website to find out what’s in the foods you’re planning to order.

The Fatabase

The Vancouver Sun’s website has a tool (the “Fatabase”) you can use to check the nutrition information for menu items at 80 popular British Columbia restaurants chains. The tool shows calories, fat, trans fat, sodium, carbs, and sugars for each menu item. If you know where you’re heading to eat, you can do your meal planning before you go, or, if you’ve got a smartphone, you can do your research right at the table.

Some BC chains are not included in the Fatabase, and the Sun has an article explaining why many of them are excluded. For some, it’s because they simply refuse to provide nutrition information about their products.

The “We Want It” Campaign

According to an e-mail from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, “nearly two-thirds of Canadians want nutrition information in restaurants but don’t know how to make it happen.” So, they’ve launched a campaign – We Want It – that lets you submit an online request for your favourite restaurant to provide nutrition information.

When you submit a request through the website, the Heart and Stroke Foundation logs that request. On April 1, they will send letters to all submitted restaurants, asking them to disclose their nutrition information. So far, Cactus Club has the greatest number of requests. (Cactus Club is not included in the Fatabase, and they told the Sun they don’t provide nutrition information because their menu changes too often.)

Tell us your thoughts by commenting below! Do you wish restaurants in your area would disclose their nutrition information on the menu? Does calorie count affect what you order?


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