calories in fast food

10-Plus Ways to Avoid Calorie-Overloaded Fast-Food Meals

New study: Parents order food with fewer calories for their kids if the calorie content is listed. But what about their own meals?

By Leah Zerbe


10-Plus Ways to Avoid Calorie-Overloaded Fast-Food Meals

Not so fast: Kids eat better when their parents can see the calories.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Shock and awe will be on the menu in places like California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Philadelphia this year as cities, counties, and states join the ranks of New York City and Seattle in mandating that chain restaurants post calorie content clearly on menus. (That's right: Ruby Tuesday's Colossal Burger is 2,014 calories!) And a new study released this week is the first of its kind to suggest that these labeled menus may lead to significantly lower calorie content in the restaurant meals purchased for children. "It's about having the information at the point of purchase. Many restaurants do provide info on tray liners, posters by the bathroom, or online. But it's not helpful for consumers if they can't take it into account when they're ordering," explains lead study author Pooja Tandon, MD, research fellow at Seattle Children's Research Institute and the University of Washington School of Medicine.

THE DETAILS: Researchers surveyed 99 parents of 3- to 6-year-olds in the Seattle area who said they sometimes grab dinner at a fast-food restaurant, asking them to order from sample McDonald's menus that included current prices and pictures of the food items. Half of the parents' menus also displayed clearly marked calorie information for each item. The parents with calorie information on the menu ordered 102 fewer calories on average for their children, compared to those that did not have the calorie info. That's about a 20 percent decrease in calories. "Even modest calorie adjustments on a regular basis can avert weight gain and lead to better health over time. Just an extra 100 calories per day may equate to about 10 pounds of weight gain per year," explains Dr. Tandon. "Our national childhood obesity epidemic has grown right alongside our fast-food consumption. Anything we can do to help families make more positive choices could make a difference." The study will appear in a February edition of the medical journal Pediatrics.

WHAT IT MEANS: Previous studies have shown mixed results when it comes to what adults order when calories are prominently displayed. The good news in this study is that while calorie content didn't affect parents' food choices for themselves, having the calories of food items clearly displayed did compel them to order healthier food for their children. And this in-your-face calorie wake-up call could be coming to a location near you. Currently more than 30 municipalies or states are considering policies that would require calories and other nutrition information to be clearly visible—not hidden on a poster by the bathroom door, inside a brochure, or online. Federal menu-labeling standards have also been discussed as part of healthcare reform legislation.

Another potential benefit of nutritional labeling? Putting all the calories on the table may motivate restaurants to rethink their menus. "Restaurants could change what they offer," explains Dr. Tandon. "They could reformulate what's on the menu or offer more healthy choices as part of their menu." So even if individuals don't change what they order based on information on the menu board, a change in what's offered may decrease calorie consumption.

For information on menu labeling, including current bills under consideration and a menu-labeling map, visit the Center for Science in the Public Interest website.

In the meantime, here are 10 ways adults can avoid fast-food-calorie overkill for themselves and their kids, plus a trio of healthier swaps to get you started.

Published on: January 25, 2010
Updated on: March 11, 2010

More from our Authors

Learn how much happier and healthier you can be WITHOUT sugar ruining your life!

I am very impressed with your

I am very impressed with your message and appreciate you so good to share steriods

All that food that we eat has

All that food that we eat has an effect on your teeth. Protect your teeth with good oral care, visit dentist in provo Utah today.

You have made some excellent

You have made some excellent points there. Used to do they’re certified inside subject and barely found any specific info other websites, but great in order to be here, seriously, thanks. hollister men|| hollister|| hollister uk|| hollister sale|| hollister clothing|| hollister hoodies||

Going to a restaurant for a

Going to a restaurant for a lunch with family or friends can be a great experience. However, it can spoil your day, if you are made to pay for bad food or poor service or poor ambience at a restaurant. Thus choosing the right restaurant becomes important. With the growing number of restaurants and each claiming to be the better than the other, you get many options to choose from. Availability of many options makes the choice of the perfect eating place a difficult task. Rome Pizza & Grill

I am very impressed with your

I am very impressed with your message and appreciate you so good to share. book report Help | custom Admission essay | custom thesis

To get the number on the

To get the number on the scale to go down, you have to chow down. Between 10 and 30 percent of the calories you use each day get burned by the simple act of digesting your food. Now that's pretty cool—satisfying your food cravings actually fries calories! But not all foods are created equal.

java programmer

It is perfect time to make

It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I've read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about it!

Healthy Intake

Car Accident Lawyer Tampa Yes, this is right and it is about time too that cities, states will also take on this crusade for better awareness of food intake in terms of calories, it is better to be informed; well-informed means good choices for a healthy, nutritional living plus long life, lesser illness and high-calorie-food diseases and weight gain more importantly it is will lead to good food eating habit

Nutritional Labeling

One time, after attending the Millionaire Mind Seminar, I went downtown and saw one restaurant which has nutritional labeling on their foods.The idea of including calorie contents on menus are very helpful. Not only the restaurants will be aware of the calorie contents of the foods they serve but the customers as well will have control on the foods that they are eating.


You can ask to not have the apple side included, and then just bring your own organic apple. Or you could just not give your child the caramel.

Kiddos and comment on image

The image is supposed to be disgusting. Point made.

As for the apple side that fast food chains are the caramel sauce really necessary? It might not add much to the calorie count, but I cringe when I think about the ingredients:

Corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk (milk, sugar), high fructose corn syrup, water, butter (cream, salt), sugar, salt, disodium phosphate, artificial flavors (vanillin, ethyl vanillin), caramel color, pectin, potassium sorbate (preservative).

Sometimes calories aren't the the thing we should be the most worried about. I'd rather give my three-year-old 100 more calories than pump him full of corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup.


The image for this article is disgusting! I'm sure there are better ways to bring the point across.

Woo hoo!

Soooo glad to hear that other areas are making sure consumers know how many calories are in their products!

In the fight against the nation-wide obesity epidemic, having this information front and center is a great help.


Download a FREE chapter from The Exercise Cure and learn how to get your daily dose of the world's most effective preventive medicine. Click here for your FREE copy!

Free Newsletter
Sign up for the FREE daily newsletter and get useful tips to keep yourself, your family, and the planet healthy and thriving.

  The Daily Fix
Authoritative reporting on the latest developments in health, food, and the environment

  Maria's Farm Country Kitchen Newsletter
Get cooking tips, learn about healthy living and even raising chickens—Maria does it all!

Your Privacy Policy