Argument: Calories on menus pressure restaurants to make healthier meals
New York’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, said in 2008 in regards to legislation in New York City mandating calories on menus: "When places have to put ‘2,700 calories’ next to an appetizer, they might not have a 2,700-calorie appetizer anymore."
David Kiley. "Fast Food Menu Calorie Counter Should Be National Law". Business Week. July 17, 2009: "But the point is that requiring this nationally would compel restaurants to re-invent their menus, because they wouldn’t want everything on the menu to be over 1,000 calories. They can still have the fat stuff. After all, some people can eat 1,500 calorie lunches and do just fine. But people will tend to make better choices when presented with the info at point of sale."
"Restaurant Calorie Counts an Appetite Killer". Team Sugar. August 19, 2009: "Health-conscious chains see the laws as an opportunity to court customers. Take Romano's Macaroni Grill, which launched an "Italian Mediterranean" menu in California restaurants on July 1. This lighter menu features seven new dishes, as well as 13 revamped ones.
The most dramatic change was the scallops and spinach salad, which dropped from 1,270calories to 390 calories -- all without altering the entrée's portion size, says Larry Nedwed, a senior brand manager for Macaroni Grill. The chain simplified the dressing to a blend of extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice, Nedwed said. It also added whole jumbo sea scallops for better flavor.
As a result, the salad's saturated fat fell from 27 grams to 4 grams.
"Our guests prefer the new recipe," Nedwed said. "They're ordering it five times more than they did before." Come Labor Day, Macaroni Grill's restaurants will feature the new menu nationwide. The chain slowly is shifting its entire menu to the lighter Italian Mediterranean theme.
There isn't any research to show whether Macaroni Grill's results are typical, said Mike Donohue, a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association.
But adding healthful food to menus has been trendy for a long time. "And I think that will continue," he said. That's one result supporters of the California law like. Even fast-food restaurants have been adding healthier fare, said Kumar Chandran of California Food Policy Advocates, a nonprofit that tries to help low-income families gain access to nutritious food.