What’s the healthiest thing on the menu at a fast food restaurant? Is it the salad, or is it the chicken sandwich? The answer may not be as obvious as you might think. You may be surprised to learn that a salad with dressing may have more fat than French fries, and that a milkshake may have more calories than a hamburger. Most fast food is high in calories, fat, and sodium. When eaten regularly, this kind of food can be bad for your health. Fortunately, making healthy choices at fast food restaurants is becoming much easier, thanks to a new menu-labeling law.
Starting next year, restaurant chains with 20 or more locations will have to put calorie information on their menu boards. This law also says that restaurants must make other nutritional information (such as fat and sodium content) available by request. The change is in response to a growing national obesity problem. Since fast food is so popular in the US, the hope is that by having this information in plain sight people will make healthier meal choices.
Many restaurants have gotten a head start in making changes to their menus by calculating calories in their meals, adjusting recipes, and adding healthier choices. You can already see some of this information on menu boards and in pamphlets where you order food. For restaurants that haven’t made this change yet, this information may be found online on the restaurant’s website. Many websites offer interactive menus to help make the nutrition facts easier to understand. A customer who wants to know the nutritional content of their meal can visit these sites and pick items from the menus to add to their virtual plate. Once added to the plate, nutritional information for each item selected appears, making it easier to compare items by the amount of calories, fat, and sodium.
Check out our Fast Food Facts guide, and try to make healthier choices the next time you’re out at a fast food restaurant.
-Colleen, Simmons Nutrition Intern