Menu labelling means providing nutrition information on the menu or menu board in restaurants and foodservice establishments.

Why Menu Labelling?

It is common to underestimate the amount of calories and sodium in restaurant meals. You may be surprised at the levels of calories and sodium in some dishes that seem “healthy.” Calorie and sodium levels vary widely from restaurant to restaurant and there’s no way to know what you’re getting unless you have nutrition information.

Many restaurant chains already provide nutrition information to customers who ask for it. This is a good first step but very few people ask to see nutrition information.

A University of Toronto study on sodium and calories at popular chain restaurants in Canada showed the following results:

Restaurant 1

Salad, the healthier choice

470 calories
570 mg of sodium

vs Hamburger, the less healthier choice

700 calories
1050 mg of sodium

Restaurant 2

Salad with a red X through it

500 calories
1700 mg of sodium

vs Hamburger, the healthier choice

538 calories
938 mg of sodium

 

The amount of calories and sodium varies widely from restaurant to restaurant because:

  • Portion sizes are different
  • Ingredients are different
  • Side dishes are different

 

These examples show that restaurant dishes that seem similar can have very different nutritional profiles.

Plate of spaghetti and meat sauce

Spaghetti Bolognese (meat sauce)
730 calories
1042 mg of sodium

vs Plate of spaghetti and meat balls

Spaghetti and Meat Balls
1730 calories
2750 mg of sodium

A single serving of chicken taco

Chicken Tacos appetizer
560 calories
900 mg of sodium

vs Large plate of nachos

Nachos appetizer
2060 calories
7060 mg of sodium

Does nutrition and calorie information on menus influence food choices?

Canadian Cancer Society video on menu labeling and whether nutrition and calorie information on menus influence food choices.