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Nutrition Info on Menus: Coming Soon?

Calorie, Fat, Sodium Content May Appear on Fast Food, Restaurant Menus
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20 Zillion Fat Grams Served continued...

Many of these meals, appetizers, snacks, and drinks provide a full day's worth of calories -- and in some cases even more.

Children between 2 and 6 years old, women, and some older adults should get about 1,600 calories a day, according to the American Dietetic Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Older children, teen girls, and most men should get about 2,200 calories. Teen boys and active men should get about 2,800 calories,

Some menu items have more calories and fat than anyone would imagine, says Wootan. "Who would guess that a drink can pack the calories of a whole meal? A large shake at McDonald's has over a thousand calories, 35% more than a hamburger, small fries, plus small Coke."

Other staggering calorie counts from the CSPI:

  • Large caffe mocha with whole milk: 430 calories
  • Large caffe latte with skim milk: 170 calories
  • Three slices pepperoni pizza: 900 calories
  • Five breadsticks: 800 calories
  • Mushroom cheeseburger: 1,490 calories
  • Hamburger and onion rings: 1,550 calories
  • Fries: 600 calories
  • Chicken fingers: 1,640 calories
  • Stuffed potato skins: 1,260 calories
  • Movie theater popcorn, medium size, without butter: 900 calories
  • Cinnabon Classic: 670 calories

"If chain restaurants can provide nutrition information on web sites, they can put calorie numbers on their menus," Wootan says. "For nutrition information to be useful, it needs to be at the point of decision making. Few fast-food consumers want to lose their place in line to squint at a hard-to-read poster."

Over the last eight months, six states -- California, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas -- and the District of Columbia have introduced bills to require nutrition information in fast food chain restaurants.

Experts Weigh In

Nutritionists, of course, love this legislation -- but it may need some editing, says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

"Too much information can be a little overwhelming for people," Bonci tells WebMD. "You need to give them options, teach them how to make better decisions. Give them 'Door Number One,' 'Door Number Two,' and 'Door Number Three' -- and the facts to back it up. Order that burger but get a smaller drink. Those are things people don't think of."

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