Should restaurants label their menu with calorie content?
Imagine it’s the weekend and you decide to meet your friend for dinner at your favorite restaurant to enjoy some good food. You sit down at your table and the waiter hands you the restaurant menu, as you open it there is calorie mentioned besides every dish and you wonder what the hell is this, you are suddenly aware now that the pizza which you once devoured whole contains approximately 350-400 kcal per slice. Well be prepared to be amazed as FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) is contemplating to make it mandatory for chain restaurants to label the calorie content and nutrition information on their menu so that the customers are informed and can make a healthy choice when eating outside.
FSSAI CEO Pawan Kumar Agarwal has made it voluntary now for restaurants and food chains to label their menus but with the drafting of regulation it may be mandatory in the future. The draft regulations mention that restaurants having a central license or chain restaurants with 10 or more locations will be required to mention each food item sold by them along with calorie on menu cards or display boards. The same rule will be applicable to E-commerce food business operators. US FDA based on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act 2010 made it compulsory for food chain and similar food service operators with more than 20 store locations to display the calorie on their food menu effective from May7, 2018. So if USA can do it we can do it too in India.
The purpose of food labeling is to provide the customer with nutrition information. We often term burgers, pizza, soft drinks, chips and fried food as junk food and might instead opt for local foods like roti, sabji, masala dosa or a thali with the perception that it is a healthier choice. While it could be, let me inform you that your average veg thali is easily above 500kcal, Masala dosa comes to approx 450kcal which is the same as a Mcd chicken burger. The estimated energy requirement for women is 1900kcal and for a man is 2320kcal as per dietary guidelines for Indian formulated by National Institute of Nutrition. So if you’ve been eating a veg thali or a masala dosa and even helping yourself for a second serve of the same you might just meet half of your caloric requirement with one meal. When eating outside we often don’t make the right choice when it comes to portion size, healthy v/s unhealthy, we go with what our craving is or try to satisfy our taste bud for the moment. But if you knew the calorie your dish contains would you still opt for it? Studies have shown that post calorie labeling the calorie load of the customer orders decreased.
Lifestyle disorders like obesity, CVD, High Blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes are on the rise in India and death due to NCDs (non-communicable diseases) has risen from 37.09% in 1990 to 61.8% in 2016. National Family Health Survey 4 data reveals that 1 in 10 women and 1 in 7 men between ages 15-49 are hypertensive and every 12th Indian is a Diabetic. Thus labeling the restaurant menus will at least create awareness about the high amount of calories which people often eat when eating outside and possibly direct them in choosing to eat healthy so that the prevalence of NCDs in India will decrease.
A popular American chain restaurant “The Cheesecake Factory” is known to have very high calorie meals which can easily giveyou more calories than required for your entire day. While it is a positive initiative to label the caloric content of meals and provide the nutrition information it is a tedious task for the food service providers and chain restaurants to do so due to the changing menu, time consuming procedure and economic expenditure it will bring with it.
Let’s go back to our beginning scenario and now decide whether you want to eat an entire days caloric requirement by devouring that pizza on your own? Before you think of eating in restaurant, it is important to know what your calorie requirement is and how it needs to be distributed throughout your routine day. This requires scientific planning backed by certain data. Making your life easy is our team of nutritionist at QUA Nutrition who follows a customized approach of nutrition planning based on your blood parameters, lifestyle, activity levels etc. They assess you, identify your calorie requirements and will be your constant nutrition mentor: they will tell what, when & how much to eat.
So the next time you plan to eat in a restaurant, give a call to your nutritionist first & they will help you out with tips for healthy dining out. The team of nutritionist at QUA Nutrition can be reached out on 9743430000. You can also write to us at https://quanutrition.com/Contact.html.
Ryan Fernando is an Award-winning celebrity Sports Nutritionist with 2GUINNESS world record and 2 Olympic medals under his belt. His client list include Olympic wrestler Sushil Kumar, cricketer Shikhar Dhawan & bollywood superstars Aamir Khan & Abhishek Bachchan. He is Chief Nutritionist at QUA Nutrition Signature Clinics.