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Calorie Counts on Menus

Soon, you may be able to view those calorie counts on restaurant menus. In April, the FDA proposed a regulation that would require calorie labeling in chain restaurants, retail food establishments, and vending machines.

"Perhaps calorie labeling will usher in a new era of common sense at America's chain restaurants, and chains will compete with each other to come up with new, healthy menu items with more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains," CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson says in a news release.

According to Nancy Mays, a spokeswoman for Applebee's, the restaurant chain offers nutritional information online and in the restaurant.

"We offer a lot of great-tasting dishes, including six Unbelievably Great Tasting and Under 550 Calories selections and five Weight Watchers-endorsed entrees," Mays says in a statement.

Cold Stone Creamery also offers lower-calorie menu items, says spokeswoman Jean Smoke in a statement, including "Sinless Ice Cream and Non-Dairy Sorbet, and ... at least one flavor of low-fat frozen yogurt that starts at 34 calories an ounce."

Smoke, also speaking on behalf of Great Steak, says that while Great Steak does offer some lower-calorie sides and salads, "We serve a consumer who is looking for true comfort food. Comfort food will oftentimes involve high-calorie items."

The National Restaurant Association, which says in a statement that it advocated for the menu labeling law, points out in the same statement that "restaurants have and will continue to offer a growing selection of healthful menu options."

To the CSPI, such limited nods to healthy eating are not enough.

"Instead of setting aside a few menu items called something like 'Lean & Fit,' why can't menus have a small section called 'Fatten Up!' and keep the rest of the menu healthy?" Jacobson asks in a news release.

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