BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - According to the Food and Drug Administration, Americans eat or drink about one-third of their calories outside the home. That can make balancing good nutrition a bit tricky. However, beginning this month restaurant chains will be required by the FDA to list calorie values on their menus.
Mandatory calorie labeling was initiated as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. While some larger chains like McDonalds have already started labeling their menus, now other chains with more than 20 locations will have to follow suit.
"Many people do not realize what exactly they are eating in their daily lives," said Dr. Mary Thomas.
Dr. Mary Thomas is a family medicine physician with Baton Rouge General Hospital, and she specializes in obesity and nutrition. According to Thomas, almost 40% of Americans are obese. Obesity can lead to a long list of health problems, from heart disease to sleep apnea. It also leads to higher healthcare costs.
Thomas says the labeling can be helpful in guiding people towards healthier options. The FDA points to a study that shows when people see the calorie count they eat around 50 fewer calories per meal.
"Making people aware of the fact of what exactly they are consuming," said Thomas. "They should know the ingredients, the nutrients in their diet makes a world of difference."
For more information on the calorie labeling, click here.
However, calories are not the only thing Thomas says you need to look for. She said it's important to pay attention to the carbohydrates, added sugar, fat, and protein contents on a food label.
For example, a medium banana contains around 100 calories. While you may also come across a 100-calorie pack of cookies, Thomas points out the banana will contain more good nutrients like potassium. Meanwhile, the cookies could be loaded with preservatives and added sugar.