Do Restaurant Calorie Displays Help You Make a Healthy Choice?

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

Restaurant Calorie DisplaysNew York City was the pioneer in requiring restaurants to display their menu items calorie amounts.

Now, restaurant chains and other cities all over the world are beginning to follow along.

It is easy to find out the calories from chain restaurants online, but soon they will be right in front of our face as we make a food choice.

How much does this help our health and do people who eat there really care?

We Know It’s Bad

Research has said that restaurant calorie displays do not impact our choices substantially. If you make the decision ahead of time that we want a Big Mac, you are not going to walk into the restaurant and decide against it.

Most people will overlook the high calorie number.

It is a challenge to break habits and behaviors. A few numbers staring at you are not going to change what you have been doing for years.

Good for the Healthy Eaters

However, if you are already planning to make a healthy choice, the menu display will help you make that healthy choice. You will be able to correctly budget your calories to fit in your diet. It takes away the guessing game.

Some Apps and websites for those who want to make a healthy choice:


MyFitnessPal Mobile App

A massive database of restaurant calories and foods in general. It also allows you to track your calories eaten and calories burned throughout the day.


CalorieKing Food Database

Offers a huge database of restaurant calorie information as well as suggests how much exercise it will take to burn those calories. No mobile app, however.

fast food calorie counter

Fast Food Mobile App

Fast Food Calories App

A nice database of fast food chains’ calorie and nutrition information. I like how it shows you the percentage of daily calories used by each menu item.

Do You Want to See Calories at Your Restaurant?

If seeing the high calorie digits could help start some in the process of thinking healthier and save others a couple calories here and there, then we are on the right path.

For me, if I am going to make a less healthy choice, and I have already decided it, I do not want to see those high calories staring up at me. I eat a healthy diet most every day, so when I decide to splurge, I don’t want to be reminded.

Overall, I am still in favor of restaurant calorie displays because it greatly helps those of us who want to make a healthy choice.



    When you go to a restaurant you want to have fun and can leave dieting to non-restaurant eating. But it is always better to be informed.


  2. Sue

    I don’t really eat fast food, but I’m all for putting calories on menus. When I eat out, first I scan the menu narrowing my choices to the ones with the best Zone diet balance. When I’ve seen nutritional info displayed on the menu, all the better, because it gives me an idea of what’s actually in the meal (re protein , carbohydrate and fat). You can’t always go by the descriptions or pictures, as another person mentioned. I think displaying nutritional info is very helpful info for ordering.

  3. SmoledMan

    When I go to a burger joint, I don’t want to know how many calories my triple bacon cheeseburger and large french fries and full-sized Coke has. I’ll just make it up by running a bit more the next day.

  4. O.

    I may be one of the few people that regularly eats the grilled chicken sanwiches, salads, etc at fast food places seriously. But when it is time for my “treat” it’s time for my treat and nothing is going to stop me from eating what I want short of some sort of sanitation violation.

  5. Linda

    I like having the calories shown on the menu. I’m trying to maintain my weight loss and knowing how many calories I’m eating really helps. I agree with the previous poster that you decide to indulge or treat yourself; then see the calorie count and change your mind. It can be hard to wrap your mind around eating an item that is 1300 calories! Probably wise to skip it.

  6. Amy

    Those occasional times when I decide to have a fast food “treat”, I often end up getting put off by the calories… like I just can’t bring myself to spend however many calories on one little burger. Then I don’t get it even though I really want it and feel sad. Stupid calories.

  7. Jim

    Hmmm I’d rather not see any calorie amounts. Just enjoy the food dammit.

    • sharon

      Yes,really agree with you.LOL,Just enjoy the food dammit!

  8. Spectra

    I very, very rarely eat fast food. I only eat it if I’m in a situation where I do not have access to any real food, so I do like having the calorie counts on the menu. It helps me make the best choice given the circumstances.

  9. Serena

    They help me, but I choose to take the time to think about what to order. Displayed or on a card or in a book, it all works out pretty well for me. The small items sometimes have more calories than the big items. The grease actually makes the food compress and look smaller in real life than in the picture. I wish you really got as many veggies as in the picture.