/ Food & Drink

Do you want to see calorie information when you eat out?

Eating out

A review by Cambridge University has looked at whether providing calorie information in places that we eat at out at, such as in restaurants and cafes, has any impact on what we actually choose. Would having this information affect your decision?

From the studies available, the review found that having this information leads to around an 8% drop in calories consumed overall.

This adds to the case for making sure that calorie information is provided by a much wider range of outlets. And while some fast food, coffee shop and pub chains do provide this information, it’s still a relatively small crowd that do this.

Nutritional labelling

While calorie labelling alone isn’t going to turn us into a healthier nation, this study helps illustrate that it can have a role. Although 8% may not sound a lot, it’s still an important difference when you think of how calories so easily add up and how difficult it can be to burn them off.

A survey that we have just carried out adds further weight to the case for calories to be shown. Of the people we surveyed, 63% thought that the number of calories should be provided on food in cafes and restaurants for transparency.

We asked them what action different parts of the food industry and the government could take to help make it easier for people to eat healthily and few people thought that enough action has been taken so far. In fact, it was catering outlets like restaurants and takeaways who are generally seen as being the least proactive.

As well as nutritional information, some also highlighted the importance of food manufacturers, restaurants and cafes also lowering fat, sugar and salt levels in foods and providing a greater choice of healthier options. Including more price promotions on healthier foods was also seen as important.

Healthy eating

Eating out has become a major source of what we eat. The problem is that the food we eat out tends to be skewed towards the less healthy. While we’re used to seeing nutritional information and traffic light labelling on foods in the supermarket, it’s still something that you have to hunt for when you eat out.

I like to think I know what the healthier option is, but sometimes it can be really difficult to judge. When calorie labelling is given, it’s often surprising just how different the calorie content is between similar options. And something that you might expect to be a lower calorie choice isn’t necessarily.

Calorie labelling on its own isn’t going to cause huge shifts in what we eat. But if this information had to be provided it could help us make more informed choices when we want to. It could also incentivise those producing it to think about the fat and sugar content of their food.

This is something that has already happened in the US where calorie labelling has been made a requirement for chain restaurants. So would you want to see a similar approach in the UK? Would you find it helpful to have more nutritional information when you eat out?

Do you want calorie information on menus?

Yes (69%, 503 Votes)

No (26%, 193 Votes)

I'm not sure (5%, 36 Votes)

Total Voters: 732

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Calories ?? I have never even thought about calories,what are they I just eat food to stop the pangs of hunger nothing else Keep active walk more not drive everywhere and there would be no need to worry about calories Too many lazy people who are making their children lazy by driving them everywhere they want to go Walking does not harm you It does you good

Hunger triggers are different for different people.

On a normal work day I walk about 2 Hours – around 375 kCalories – about the same a my gym sessions with HIIT and resistance training – but they affect my metabolism differently.

By counting calories, I have a choice how much or little I eat – but If I don’t know the calorie content, my choice is eat or count.

No. It’s not the time for science. Choice of food comes down to what is suitable at that time, for the situation and the company and where you happen to be. If diet is important for medical reasons, that’s part of the choice one makes before eating out. To have a dietary regime is probably wise. To make this so strict that no circumstances will alter that, is being pedantic and away from the real world – medical reasons excepted. Eating out is sometimes a necessity, sometimes a treat and sometimes a celebration. It’s a time to enjoy the skills of cookery that would be a chore at home and take years of practice to perfect. It is a time for social gatherings without the cooking and washing up to consider. It is a time to give oneself a treat. Sod the calories!

There could be a nutritional guide/menu/barcode on request.
Many good takeaway chains do this. Itzu and Abergado list calories, so I might choose the satay sauce. Full nutritional data is on the websites.

Frankie and Benny’s is a nice treat, but we don’t go there for the cookery skills.

Counting Calories is the best way to control body fat. I use the MyfitnessPal app to record everything I consume and a Polar watch to net off any exercise. I have lost 12kg of body fat.

But I also need to control salt and refined sugar. – Supermakets are great at providing Info via barcodes, which can be scanned into apps. Restaurants should at least provide calories, Protein, Carbs and fat.

It’s disappointing that more than a decade after ‘traffic light’ food labels were introduced, some manufacturers are still not using them to alert us to foods that contain high levels of sugar, salt, fats and saturated fats, as well as giving us the calorie content. Reading an old issue of New Scientist magazine, I was reminded that Nestle, Kelloggs and Tesco were opposed to their introduction. Tesco soon adopted them, as did other supermarkets. I cannot find any Nestle or Kelloggs products in my cupboards but I don’t think they adopted these labels. I wonder why.

I’d need to calculate all my calories each day to decide whether to take notice of the numbers on a menu. I would not bother to do that. I eat what I regard as a balanced diet, seem to hold my weight and have adequate energy but, more important, enjoy what I eat.

By all means put calories on menus, but I’d go for what I decided would be most enjoyable to eat, not be constrained by the numbers (except maybe the ££ as opposed to the lbs)

Eating out has become more popular and large portions are often seen as a positive, on the basis that we want more for our money. Anyone eating out regularly may be at danger of eating significantly more than they would if they cooked for themselves.

This is a problem for me, since I eat slowly and have a limited appetite. I usually ask for a smaller portion, without asking them to reduce the price. My choice not theirs so not really fair to do so. If it’s a carvery I can regulate the amount myself. It is embarrassing to keep the table waiting at club/choir dinners, so I’d rather have less and finish with the rest. Things are easier when food comes in self-serve dishes for the complete table, and Chinese cuisine is often good in this respect, since one has a bit of this and a bit of that as the meal goes on. The over-eating becomes a problem when, after a fair sized main course, a melt in the mouth apple pie appears on the menu. Hard to resist! Eating out is a treat and remains a treat by being an occasional outing rather than something done each week.

I agree, Vynor. An advantage of eating slowly is that it gives time for your body to recognise how much you have eaten (satiety). I normally eat out less than once a week but done so for the past two days.

My firned, try the light bites menu!

I often find that portion sizes in restaurants are either far to big or far to small!

But, you better watch your calories; otherwise you’ll turn into Big Smoke!!!!!!!!

I would not want to see nutritional info on a menu but it would be useful if it was available separately for those with dietary requirements.

The only eating establishments that would be able to provide such info are those that basically heat up prepared food, as food cooked to order from scratch is never going to be the same twice.

I also find portions are either too small or too large, very rarely just right. If they are too big, I ask for a doggy bag, if we don’t eat it the wildlife won’t let it go to waste. It is good to see some eating establishments now offer smaller portions.

Wetherspoons indicate calories on their menus

For people like myself with health issues it is a very good idea. I have ulcerative colitis, heart disease. It is the one time when I can look normal and still enjoy myself. With this extra knowledge it will make the decision process easier.

M&S already do it in their restaurants last time i was there.

If you have health issues like myself, it makes the decision making process a bit easier. Especially if you are on a diet. I also think that portion sizes are to big. even with economy sizes. Has you get older you don’t need as much.

Katy says:
3 March 2018

I think that we should be given information about the calorie count for each dish. This would encourage restaurants to serve healthier food and offer smaller portions. They should also give information about the air miles involved in obtaining ingredients, although I appreciate this would be more complex to obtain.

Sue says:
4 March 2018

I have used nutritional info provided by restaurants to check salt content as a health issue means that I have to watch my salt intake. This is so useful and means I can eat out at these establishments. Nutritional info can be an advantage for customers and providers. Thanks Bills & Vintage Inns!

Norman says:
5 March 2018

Going out to dinner is a kind of special occasion, not to be spoiled by worries about calories. In any case it can be a challenge to read through and make choices from menus offering lots of attractive options. Do we really want to make that choice even more difficult?
On the other hand a lunch taken as a convenience when out and about, possibly more frequently than dinner, or an afternoon snack are I think good candidates for calorific considerations.