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Calories count

December 12, 2014

SPRINGFIELD - Ever wonder why you go into a restaurant and find calorie counts listed on their “lite” menu items, but none for other meals?

The answer is that they probably don’t want you to know that the deep dish pizza you are about to order could pack a whopping 2,310 calories – an entire day’s worth of calories for some at one sitting. Or that the “lite” meal you are ordering actually has more calories than a regular dish on the menu.

But, all that is about to change.

At the end of November, the Food and Drug Administration announced new labeling regulations that would mandate food establishments with 20 or more locations to post the calorie content of their foods “clearly and conspicuously.” And, it’s not just restaurants – coffee shops, amusement parks, movie theaters, vending machines, pizza delivery services, and some others who sell prepared foods will have to display calorie contents.

According to the FDA, Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home and that making calorie information available on chain restaurant menus will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.

Despite all the efforts, there is no conclusive research that says having this info available will change a person’s behavior in terms of making healthier food choices when dining out, noted Paula Serafino-Cross RN, a clinical dietitian in Food and Nutrition Services at Baystate Medical Center.

Don’t look for the changes right away, however, as those affected will have until Nov. 15 to comply.

So, what can consumers do in the meantime?