It’s no secret that calories can quickly add up. Though dietary recommendations are meant to act as a guide for our average calorie intake, it’s difficult to keep track of those numbers when eating at restaurants.

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act required all nutritional information, including caloric values,  be added to restaurant or fast food menus with more than 20 locations by May 7th, 2018. Though it may seem unimpressive, it could be a significant step in the fight against obesity.

Calorie Labeling Requirements

The new measure won’t make any radical changes to consumption habits, but it’s been shown that printing caloric values on menus reduces daily caloric intake by 8 percent, according to the Cochrane Review. This equals about 48 to 50 calories for the average American. Over one year, that reduction turns into 10,000 to 20,000 calories, which could be a loss of 3 pounds.

Dr. Sara Bleich, adjunct professor at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and member of the John Hopkins Global Obesity Prevention Center, notes that obesity occurs from a daily excess of only 200 calories. A change in labeling could reduce that excess by almost 25 percent.

Calorie Labels on Restaurant Menus

Average Recommended Calorie Intake

  • 2,500 for men
  • 2,000 for women

Another source of reduced caloric intake comes from the corporate world. When forced to post their nutritional information, food service corporations tend to reduce the amount of calories in their newer dishes and beverages.

These changes don’t move mountains, but in a study from 2012 to 2013 it was found that restaurants and fast-food chains were producing new options with an average of 56 fewer calories than the rest of the menu. For this reason, calorie labels on restaurant menu serves to reduce the intake of calories by another 25 percent of Dr. Breich’s cited excess.

A Step For Obesity Prevention

In a time when 1 in 3 adults in America are obese, these small and simple changes could bring down the number of people at risk for obesity. These changes are also a significant win for consumers, who had long been demanding these changes.

By forcing corporations to implement these changes it shows that if there is enough demand for healthier and more clearly labelled products that our government is willing to provide that service. The obesity crisis in America will not be solved overnight, but through small, persistent changes like this, individuals gain more agency to fight obesity themselves.