5 Things to Know About the FDA’s New Calorie-Labeling Rules for Restaurants

5 Things You Need to Know About the FDA's New Calorie Labeling Rules for Restaurants


When you order a dish at a restaurant (or a drink, for that matter), there’s a strong chance you have no idea how many calories you’re about to consume. And that’s exactly why the Food and Drug Administration issued some new rules today requiring certain restaurants to include nutrition information on menus. Right now, different states have different laws when it comes to the labeling of calories on menus, but the FDA’s new rules, which will take effect one year from now, will force all restaurants, chains and retail food establishments with 20 or more locations to follow the same guidelines when it comes to labeling. Here are five things you should know about the new rules.

1. What nutrition information will restaurants, chains and retail food establishments have to list on their menus?

Just calories. But customers will be able to ask for more written nutritional information, including total fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs, protein and more. This information just won’t necessarily be listed on the actual menu.

2. Will cocktails be covered, too?

Yes. Right now, you can get away with ordering a White Russian or a Hurricane without fear of seeing the scary amount of calories you’re about to down listed on the menu. When the rules go into effect, alcoholic drinks listed on the menu will appear next to their calorie count. Sigh. It was fun while it lasted.

3. How about food at salad bars and prepared-food bars?

Yep! Meaning, your Whole Foods bills are about to get a whole lot cheaper. Given that retail food establishments with 20 or more locations will be expected to list calories for their salad-bar and hot-food bar items, I’m guessing you’ll be loading up on less mac and cheese and more (lighter) lettuce medley. Am I right?

4. Will movie theaters have to list calories?

Yes, movie theaters and other places of entertainment will be expected to list calories, so be warned: If you live in the world of calories-don’t-count-when-eaten-in-a-dark-movie-theater, reality is about to set in.

5. And how about vending machines?

If a vending machine is run by someone who operates more than 20 of them, they will have to list calorie counts, too. The vending machine rules won’t kick in until two years from now, but when they do, vending machines will have to clearly list the calorie counts of items in the machine, either on the front of the package or on a sign near the machine. Useful, huh?

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