Food Fit Philly

 

Menu labeling provides basic nutrition information to help consumers make healthier choices when they eat out.

People are eating more and more meals outside of the home. The average American eats out six times per week, and the average Philadelphian reports eating fast food at least three or more times per week.

When people eat out, they tend to get more calories, fat, and sodium than the body needs to be healthy. For example, based on a recent study in Philadelphia, average adult meals on menus had more sodium and saturated fat than the daily recommendation – just from one meal! Too many calories, fat, and sodium can lead to obesity and other diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. 

Menu labeling provides a way to make it easier for Philadelphians to make healthier choices in restaurants. According to a local survey, 38% of Philadelphians who visited a fast food restaurant in the past month reported that calorie labeling influenced them to buy a lower calorie item.

 

Frequently asked questions

What is menu labeling?

To help Philadelphians choose healthier options, all chain restaurants in Philadelphia must comply with Philadelphia's Menu Labeling Law. Under this law, chain restaurants (defined as restaurants with more than 15 sites locally or nationally) must provide nutrition information for all menu items.
 

  • Fast food chain restaurants must list calories on the menu board (above the cashier) for all menu items. They must provide additional nutritional information upon request.
  • Chain restaurants with sit-down service must list on the menu the amount of calories, sodium, carbohydrates, saturated fat, and trans fat for all items. 

Having this information on menus can help consumers make better, informed choices when dining out.   

How do I read menu labels?

On the Menu Board

Most fast food restaurants have menu boards (above the cashier) that list calorie information. Restaurants with menu boards are required to have additional nutrition information for saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and carbohydrates (carbs) available upon request.
 

On the menu board below, the Big Philly Cheesesteak has 520 calories. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthier meals are between 500-750 calories. Most people need 2,000 calories in a whole day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Menu 

Some menus list the information next to each item. Other menus use a legend or key code at the bottom of the menu to describe the different nutrients.


On the menu below, each menu item lists the nutrition information, including calories, saturated fat, trans fat, carbohydrates (carbs), and sodium.

Calories = energy in food.  Most people need 2,000 calories in a whole day.    

 

On the menu below, the nutrition information is color-coded and the legend is at the bottom of the page. 


 

How can I use menu labels to make healthier choices?

  • Know your daily requirements. Most people need 2,000 calories per day. Remember this when you are choosing a meal. Sometimes, one restaurant meal can have this many calories!
  • Compare nutrition information for different items and consider options with lower calories, fat, and sodium. Calories are highly linked to sodium and fat. So when in doubt, consider options with lower calories.
  • Remember that side dishes and drinks count, too. If you are having a cheeseburger, French fries, and a soda, the calories may be listed separately. Make sure to add them up before making a decision.
  • If you are not sure what the numbers mean, just ask your server (or a friend). Don’t be afraid to ask your server for missing information.  Participating restaurants are required to have this nutrition information available.
  • Some restaurants have logos on their menus to help you make healthy choices. But beware! Some of these items are lower in calories but are still  very high in sodium.

What is a calorie? What is sodium?

Understanding the difference between calories, fat, carbs, and sodium can be confusing!

To maintain a healthy lifestyle, people should choose items in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium, and higher in nutrients from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein.

Nutrient

Definition

Calories

Calories are the amount of energy in food.

The average restaurant meal has more than half the calories you need in a whole day.

Most adults need about 2000 calories a day but calorie needs vary depending on your age, gender, body size and activity level. Eating more calories than your body needs can lead to weight gain.

Sodium

Sodium is an essential nutrient found in salt and many foods. It is added to food to enhance flavor and act as a preservative.

Our bodies need a small amount of sodium to be healthy, but too much can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure increases your risk for a stroke, heart disease and kidney disease.

The average restaurant meal has 1.5 times the sodium you need in a whole day.

Most adults should aim for 2300 milligrams of sodium a day. Eating more than that can cause health problems.

Carbohydrates (Carbs)

Carbs supply energy to the body in the form of glucose (sugar).

Carbs from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are a healthier choice compared to carbs from sugary drinks, cookies, and candy, which have very little nutrients.

Saturated Fat

Saturated fat is a type of fat from animal products, like cheese and meat, and baked or fried foods, like cookies and pie.

Diets high in saturated fat can cause heart disease.

Trans Fat

Trans fats are a type of fat created during food processing.

Trans fats increase the risk for heart disease.

Philadelphia has a Trans Fat Ban, which restricts the use of trans fats in food service establishments.

Too much sodium (salt) in the diet can lead to high blood pressure (or hypertension). People with high blood pressure are much more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

In Philadelphia, four out of 10 adults have high blood pressure.  High blood pressure is even more common among African American adults.

Source: CDC

Reduce your sodium:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer packaged foods.
  • Eat smaller portions. Take the rest home.
  • Read menu labels and nutrition labels and choose items with lower sodium.
  • Ask your server at a restaurant to prepare a low-sodium version of your favorite meal.
  • Ask for dressings and sauces on the side. They can have a lot of salt.
  • Don’t add salt to your food without thinking first.  It probably has enough salt already.

For more information, visit the CDC.

What is a healthy amount to eat each day?  At each meal?

How else can I make healthy choices at restaurants?

Choose this, not that!

Burn this meal!

 

Tips

Tips to reduce your sodium intake
Tips to reduce your blood pressure
Tips to help you choose healthy meals
Tips, by cuisine
Dining out tips
ChooseMyPlate tips
EatRight tips
MenuStat tips

 

Dining out apps

Find restaurants and healthy meals near you with yumPower app for iPhone
Find healthy meals based on your food preferences (vegetarian, gluten-free) with HealthyOut for iPhone
Food Tracker- Healthy Dining out app
27 apps for healthy eating and shopping


 

Get Healthy Philly is a project of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and is made possible, in part, by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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