You might have noticed that more and more restaurants and fast food places are starting to put calorie and other nutrition information on their menus.  That’s not a coincidence or accident- they’re getting ready for the upcoming menu nutrition labeling requirements in the Affordable Care Act.  Section 4205 of the new law requires restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie content information for standard menu items directly on the menu and menu boards.  Vending machine operators with 20 or more machines are also required to disclose calorie content for certain items. 

This kind of upcoming nutrition clarity is a real opportunity for public health change.  Not only will the new labels give the public key information to help them make better decisions about what they buy for themselves and their families- it’ll give pause to restaurants before they label their menus- giving them an opportunity to change ingredients to lower calorie counts.  It may even spur a trend away from “super-sizes” and toward more appropriate and reasonable serving sizes.  With 32% of the calories consumed in the US tied to eating outside the home- this is an important opportunity.  

But it’ll only help if people know what to look for and how to make informed decisions with the new info.  That’s where the Arizona and national public health systems come in.  We’ll have an opportunity over the next couple of years to take advantage of this new information and maximize its utility.  A great way to get ready to use the information that is appearing on restaurant menus is to know more about what and how much you need to eat to be at your best. Check out the USDA SuperTracker to get your personalized nutrition and physical activity plan, track your foods and physical activities to see how they stack up, and  get tips to help you make healthier choices. 

For many of us, making sure that we enjoy our food, but eat less is a good first step.  Avoiding over-sized portions is another one. Check out our SNAP-Ed Champions for Change – Arizona Nutrition Network website for tips on healthy eating and active living, great videos, fun games, easy-to-make recipes, and more.