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You're in for a Surprise! Calorie Counts Coming to Restaurant Menus Posted: April 6th, 2010

By Kathryn Vercillo

Kathryn Vercillo is a full time freelance writer/blogger with nearly 10 years of writing experience. She has authored two books and contributed to many other print publications.

America's new health care bill has an interesting element that may affect the way that you read menus at some of your favorite restaurants. The bill requires restaurants with 20 or more locations to feature calorie counts on their menus. The hope is that this legislation may lead to weight loss, healthier lives, and even lower health insurance rates. But will it?

Where Will Change Be Seen?

The new law affects more than 200,000 restaurants. Some of these restaurants already publish nutritional information. However, it's typically located in a brochure or on a website. The new law mandates that calories be posted directly on menus, including drive-thru menus.

The goal is to encourage people to really stop and think about what they are ordering at restaurants. It's easy to pretend the salad or sandwich you order for lunch fits in with your dietary goals, but it may be a lot more difficult to ignore the item's 900 calorie-count if it is written right next to it. Many people don't realize fast food hamburgers can vary from 250 calories to 1000 or more calories. Now, that information will be obvious.

The fact that this requirement is worked into our nation's health care bill proves how important it is. Proper diet and weight loss can lead to improved health. If you've ever compared health insurance quotes for healthy and unhealthy people, you may know it's a lot easier for healthy individuals to get cheap health insurance.

Proponents and Critics of the Legislation

What do the restaurants think about this? This part of the bill actually had great support from the restaurant industry. Prior to the health care reform bill individual cities and states had been working on their own laws. The federal legislation streamlines the rules for the restaurant industry nationwide. However, there are critics of the legislation that say there is no clear-cut way to verify the accuracy of the caloric information. Additionally, studies indicate that those who suffer from obesity may frequently ignore the posted information. If this is true, the law might not be as effective as proponents hope.

Kathryn Vercillo