Nutrition Facts On Menus – Why It Matters

A quesadilla appetizer that's 1,600 calories? An appetizer? There's nothing like seeing nutrition facts on menus to help us make better choices.

Did You Know... A Vanilla Bean Frappuccino, Venti, at Starbucks tallies up a belt-busting 600 calories. Let's talk sodium. A so-called "healthy" dinner, like Olive Garden's Grilled Shrimp Caprese, has 3,490 milligrams of sodium (yes, more sodium than we should have in two full days!)

Another healthy-sounding meal, Cajun Chicken Pasta at Chili’s Restaurants, has 3,650 milligrams of sodium (the equivalent of 22 bags of French fries at McDonald’s) and 37 grams of saturated fat (more saturated fat than four Quarter Pounders!).

Nutrition Facts On Menus

Recent polls indicate that nearly 80% of Americans are in favor of nutrition facts on menus at restaurants. And for good reason. Despite what the restaurant industry says (“Go to our websites to get nutrition information”), who’s really going? The fact is: There’s nothing like seeing those calories and other nutrition information right on the menu and menu boards, right when we’re ordering, to help us make better, healthier choices. Several states are already enacting legislation.

Spur your U.S. Senators and members of the House of Representatives into action

We’ll make the process easy and quick for you. Here’s a link to a federal website that gives you all the email addresses of your representatives in the U.S. Senate:

Here’s a link that will take you to the email addresses of your representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives:

Want some words to inspire your own letter-writing efforts? See excerpts of Dr. Tom Rifai’s letter below, which he recently sent to his state’s representatives. Dr. Rifai is a Board Certified Physician Nutrition Specialist and Chief Medical Advisor to the Pritikin Longevity Center.  Most of all, points outs Dr. Rifai, “I am a seriously concerned citizen.”

Keep your own letter short, if you prefer.  What matters most is that your representatives know that you care so much about this legislation that you set aside everything in your life to tell them.

Letters from all of us can make a huge difference in this very important effort!

Dear US Congressional Representatives,

I URGE you to cosponsor Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Rosa DeLauros’s Menu Education and Labeling (MEAL) Act. The MEAL Act, as OPPOSED TO THE LEAN Act (see below), would provide nutrition information on chain restaurant menus and menu boards. Menu labeling as described is URGENTLY NEEDED and would allow Americans to make informed choices and take responsibility for their nutrition and, as such, chronic disease risk, when eating out.

This bill is in VERY HIGH demand, as Americans eat out more and are increasingly concerned about health and nutrition; Almost EIGHTY PERCENT of people support menu labeling.

Without menu labeling, no one can tell that a TenderCrisp Chicken Sandwich (790 calories) at Burger King has more calories than a Whopper (670 calories), or that a large chocolate milkshake at McDonald’s (1,160) has, believe it or not, more than double the calories of a Big Mac (560)!

Finding nutrition information in a restaurant should NOT be a scavenger hunt! The information should be in the same place in each restaurant- on the menu! Only if it’s on the menu, where people are already getting the other information they need to order, like product descriptions and prices, is there any hope of nutritional information potentially being one of the tools that will help stem the tide against our otherwise unrelenting twin epidemics of diabetes and obesity – which is costing us billions of dollars and thousands upon thousands of lives.

When nutrition information is posted on websites, tray liners, or brochures, customers (like myself) can’t find the information or use it at the point when we are deciding what to order and, therefore, becomes virtually useless as far as a public health protection and information tool.

The MEAL Act, sponsored by Representative DeLauro and Senator Harkin, would provide nutrition information on chain restaurant menus and menu boards where it is easy to find and use. The MEAL Act is supported by major health organizations.

The restaurant industry-supported LEAN Act would undermine the purpose of providing nutrition information, which is to give consumers easy-to-use, easy-to-locate information at the point of ordering. The most significant difference between the MEAL Act and the LEAN Act is that under LEAN, nutrition information would not be required to be posted on the menu. Restaurants would have the option to post information through a variety of formats that people rarely see. LEAN also would overturn existing menu labeling policies and prevent other states and localities from passing restaurant labeling policies. The LEAN Act is supported by the restaurant industry, but most health organizations and experts oppose this legislation, and – in the strongest terms – I do as well.

Again, I urge you to cosponsor the MEAL Act and oppose the LEAN Act. Thank you for your time and please let me know if you will cosponsor the MEAL Act.

Dr Tom Rifai

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