The act of ordering a meal at a restaurant, for takeout, and even at grocers has officially (and finally) become a lot more transparent. An Affordable Care Act guideline created way back in 2010 requiring every restaurant and food outlet with 20 or more locations to display caloric information for each menu item has taken its sweet time coming to fruition. But good news, mindful eaters: After the multiple instances of the implementation date for the guidelines being pushed back throughout the past eight years, as of this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put ’em into practice.
While seeing just how many calories are in your go-to smoothie might be a little, uhh, disturbing, you’ll now have the power to decide what’s really worthy of consuming—not just based on how good something sounds, but also because how nutritious it actually is. And, that healthy choice is something Americans are really starting to care about.
New York City has required restaurant chains to post their calorie counts since 2008, and research has shown the practice has resulted in folks being more open and honest about the health quality of certain food joints via online reviews—possibly leading others to make more nutritious choices. Now that the rest of the country is following suit regarding menu labeling, people nationwide may soon opt for meals that both taste great and also boost their health goals.
Since people are more interested in their well-being and eating nutritiously, restaurants might be forced to add better-for-you items to ensure their more health-conscious customers stick around.
“Most Americans want to eat better, and they find it difficult, especially at restaurants, to do so,” Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told Food Dive. “Menu labeling just gives people a new tool to help them make their own choice about how many calories they want to eat.”
This regulation could also lead to some positive menu changes: Since people are more interested in their well-being and eating nutritiously—and perhaps won’t go for the 2,000-calorie options nearly as often because it—restaurants might be forced to make some healthy-offerings swaps to ensure their more health-conscious customers stick around.
Since a huge goal of the food industry (and, really, any industry) is to make money, these companies will produce what people want and are going to buy—and if that means a healthy veggie burger, then on the menu it goes. Need proof? Just look White Castle: Due to people’s changing tastes, the meat-centric fast-food chain recently added the plant-based Impossible Burger to its menu. Kind of makes you think nothing is impossible, right?
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