/ Food & Drink, Health, Travel & Leisure

Food chains, just put calorie counts on your menus

We think all food chains should display calorie information on their menus. A bunch have already pledged to do so, like McDonalds and Pizza Hut, but there are others holding back. Why don’t they just bite the bullet?

Whether it’s a sandwich at lunchtime or a meal down the pub, we’re all eating more outside the home. And that generally means you end up eating foods that are a lot higher in calories than you normally would if you were making it yourself.

So it’s good news that 38 companies have signed up to the government’s Responsibility Deal to provide calorie information when eating out. This includes some of the big chains, like McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC and JD Wetherspoons.

It means they should be displaying their foods’ calorie content in prominent places on menus and boards, as well as letting us know the guidance levels (on average 2,500 calories for men and 2,000 for women per day).

In our recent survey, two thirds of people told us that they think it’s important the calorie content of food is provided when they’re eating out. But there are still loads of companies who have yet to fully commit, including the likes of Subway, Pizza Express, Caffe Nero and Costa.

It’s law in the US, why not here?

It’s also particularly galling that, since it’s the law in the US for chains with 20 or more outlets to provide calorie information, some of these companies will be providing this info for US consumers, but not for us!

We have all heard the counter-arguments – we’re being killjoys, it spoils the enjoyment of eating out, we shouldn’t be told what to do. If that’s your view, then you don’t have to use the information. However, for those who do eat out reasonably regularly, it can be really useful to know which foods are higher in calories as it can often be completely counter-intuitive.

Did you know, for example, that just by having a fillet steak rather than a ribeye in Harvester, you would eat 700 less calories? Or that a roast beef dinner from Wetherspoons has a lot less calories than a roast chicken one?

I thought that Krispy Kreme doughnuts had to be among the most calorific foods around, but was surprised to see that a slice of Costa carrot cake has more calories than a chocolate custard Krispy Kreme doughnut.

Stop lagging on the calorie counts

So we’re challenging all major national food chains to sign up and offer calorie information on their menus, and if they don’t do so voluntarily, we want the government to make it a legal requirement, just like in the US.

Strada and Pizza Express have told us on Twitter (@WhichAction) that they’ll provide these calorie counts on separate booklets, but being required to ask for them isn’t good enough. Why not just put it on the menus themselves?

Calorie information won’t dictate what I eat, but it is going to inform it. That’s why all chain restaurants should provide it.


I never look at calorie counts but I do look at carbohydrates, since that is what puts weight on. It irritates me that Weight Watchers for example promote meals that are loaded with carbs! But it’s very difficult in this country to find ready-made meals that are low in carbs, since food producers load them up with carbs, as they are cheaper than protein, and the public are so ignorant that they just seem to accept it!

Eat less, eat a balanced diet exercise more. That is the only sensible way to lose weight.

Rather than avoid carbohydrates, go for wholemeal bread and other sources of carbohydrates that are metabolised relatively slowly.

Weight Watchers might be right, and you might be victim of unscientific propaganda!

Geoff 2 says:
13 September 2011

I’m like David – it’s carbs that I have to avoid to keep the weight down rather than just simply counting the calories. I’m afraid the “low GI” theory doesn’t work for me – they’re still carbs. Low carb diets really do work – even my wife and daughter admit it now – and they’re carb addicts!

However, we ALL know which foods are loaded with carbs or calories and, if we’re honest, we don’t need nutritional labelling to make us aware.

Sorry for commenting on this because it is taking the discussion off-topic, but anyone making use of a low carbohydrate diet could be compromising their health. Even if they do lose weight this could be difficult to maintain. Which? magazine has covered diets and diet-related products on numerous occasions.

I have heard a lot of nonsense in my time but stating carbs put weight on is utter un-educated un-qualified nonsense.
Like most food groups, over indulgence will lead to weight gain but complex carbs are essential for a healthy balanced diet. Losing weight from cutting carbs completely is denying your body its essential fuel (glucose). The process begins with the body using fat stores as fuel, then you run the risk of using muscle as fuel and possibly even reduced bone density which can lead to osteoperosis.
Please if you are trying to lose weght reduce your calories in and increase your calories out by exercising, it’s not easy but it is completely healthy.

J Laurie says:
12 September 2011

I’d like to see calories listed. Even better would be to state ProPoints (WeightWatchers).