Get ready for the end of guilt-free eating out. The new health reform law directs the Food and Drug Administration to require chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus or menu boards. The FDA, which has not yet issued the rules, has indicated it may expand them to cover airlines, movie theaters, food carts, and other establishments.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that the U.S. obesity rate is approaching 27 percent, Americans stand to benefit from more dietary disclosure. Many will undoubtedly be shocked to find that healthy-sounding options can be diet-busters, like Applebee's oriental chicken salad (1,310 calories) or McDonald's grilled chicken club sandwich extra value meal (1,120 calories). Both represent more than half the average person's recommended daily caloric intake.
Some local governments, like New York City, have already imposed their own rules requiring restaurants to post calorie counts. California recently passed a law mandating that all restaurants with 20 or more locations include the data on their menus starting January 1.
If you don't want to wait for the new rules to make healthier choices, try the websites of major restaurant chains. Most post their calorie counts. Be prepared for what you find, though. Burger King's large chocolate shake runs 960 calories, but you can opt instead for fat-free milk at 100 calories.