May 23

Should Restaurants Be Required To List Calories On Menus?


This is a question that has been debated for years, and the answer is not clear-cut. On the one hand, some people feel that calorie counts should be listed so customers can make informed choices about what they eat. 

On the other hand, some people feel that listing calories would just cause customers to make unhealthy choices.

So, which side is right? Let’s take a closer look at this issue and see what the pros and cons are.

Calories on Menus: Should Restaurants Have to List Them?

In recent years, a growing movement has required restaurants to list the calorie content of their menu items. The argument in favour of this policy is that it would help people make more informed choices about what they eat. 

After all, many people are unaware of how many calories are in their favourite dishes, and as a result, they may be inadvertently consuming too many calories. 

By requiring restaurants to list the calorie content of their menu items, people could make more informed choices about what they eat, and as a result, they could better control their weight.

Opponents of this policy argue that it would be an unnecessary burden on restaurants and ultimately have little impact on people’s eating habits. They point out that people are generally aware of which foods are high in calories and that listing the calorie content of menu items is not likely to change people’s eating habits. 

Furthermore, they argue that requiring restaurants to list the calorie content of their menu items would be an unnecessary burden on an already struggling industry.


Customers Want it

The opinion is divided, but 39% of the public believe having calories on menus would be pretty or very effective. Also, 60% of people said they would be more likely to eat somewhere that offered calorie labelling.

There is a growing interest in health and wellness, and for people who have a healthy relationship with food, it seems logical to know how many calories they’re consuming.

It Fights Against Obesity

The basic principle is straightforward. If people consume fewer calories, they will lose weight. We eat out more often, have access to food delivery, and on average, we consume more calories than we used to. And in a society where obesity is rising, we need an intervention.

With calories on menus, people will be aware of how much they consume and make better choices.

Make Better Choices

For people conscious of what and how much they’re consuming, calories on menus are welcome. Some salads contain more calories than a burger! So it’s not always clear cut.

If you’re forcing yourself to eat a salad you don’t want; you might eat something unhealthy later to compensate.

Conversely, low-calorie doesn’t always mean healthier.


It’s Stressful

For people with eating disorders, the last thing they need is more stress in an already stressful situation. Equally, those with a history of disordered eating, who have fought the impulse to track and restrict calories for years, might find calorie-littered menus an unwelcome guest at the table.

Calories Aren’t Everything

Calories alone don’t indicate how nutritious food is. Some nutrient-rich foods like nuts and seeds are high in calories but aren’t unhealthy. Whole grains are calorie-dense but are fibrous and more filling. People might not consider this when they order the lowest-calorie option.

Also, one evening out eating a pizza and drinking a couple of pints isn’t going to be detrimental to your health in the bigger picture. We want to be able to enjoy food as well as choose healthy options.

It’s Expensive

Restaurants will need to reprint their menus and food boards. They might have to have dishes nutritionally analysed in a lab to get accurate information and avoid misleading the public.

It takes a lot to plan a menu. Chefs often need to consider seasonality, sustainability, what the business is known for, trends, price and reliability of the produce coming in at a consistent quality, and lastly, profit margins.

With so many costs already involved with producing food, do restaurants need one more?

Where Does Next Step Nutrition Fall on This?

We think the situation is nuanced. As evidence-based nutritionists passionate about helping people overcome poor relationships with food, we often end up in the middle of these types of debates.

Here are some of our thoughts.

  1. People should be educated on the calorie content of food and the macro and micronutrient breakdowns to know how many calories they consume.

But for people who become obsessive about counting calories and only consider calories when cooking or consuming food, it will lead to a poor relationship with food and with themselves.

  1. Calories on menus might help people make better choices and look for healthy options. 

But food is more than just calories. It’s also to be enjoyed. One meal doesn’t indicate whether a person’s diet is healthy or unhealthy.

  1. Knowing how many calories are in a meal makes it easier to stick to a diet. If they’re on a specific nutritional plan, menu calories support their efforts.

Just thinking about calories doesn’t help mindful eating habits. For mindful eaters, choosing a high-calorie meal doesn’t mean they’ll finish the whole meal. If a meal is 1000 calories, but you only eat half of it, you’re only consuming 500 calories, for example.

  1. Eating out is a popular option; we want our clients to feel empowered when they eat and drink in restaurants.

Are people really eating out that much? More education on diet, health, exercise, and mindful eating is needed. We should empower people to make healthy choices.

Calories on Menus: Not the Debate We Should be Having

We understand that people are upset. It might be triggering to see calories on menus for people with eating disorders and those with disordered eating tendencies. Remember, though; you can request a menu without calories listed.

We want to focus on the bigger picture. Let’s start thinking about nutrition in a human way instead of just focusing on numbers. Things like:

  • Learning your hunger cues
  • Listening to your body and knowing when you’re full
  • Noticing your reactions to stress and how it affects your eating habits
  • Learning to eat without distractions, to enjoy and appreciate food
  • Appreciating your body for the things it can do, not just what it looks like
  • Building habits and skills to improve your relationship with yourself and food

We’re creating a community of people who want to ditch food rules and restrictions and improve their confidence, mindset, and life. 

Reach out today and start your journey.


blog, calories, fat loss, Food, health, intuitive eating, nutrition, weight loss

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