This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Learn more x


Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Wanting to Get Out of the Kitchen? Some Free Advice

By Michael McBurney

Whether on vacation, traveling for business, or trying to avoid standing in front of a stove during the summer, a common choice is eating at a restaurant. When doing so, most people underestimate the calories in restaurant foods.  

A CDC report finds that 57% of Americans use menu labels when making food choices. Women are more likely to read menus than men. The primary reason for using menu labels is to estimate calorie content of foods although there are mixed opinions on whether menu labels actually influence calorie intake.

Overweight and obesity are not constrained to the US. As societies become urbanized and wealthier, the prevalence of overweight and obesity increases among children and adolescents. Even in Italy, the prevalence of obesity and overweight among adolescents is increasing. Being overweight as a child, increases the risk of being obese as an adult. And even worse, the prevalence of class III obesity (body mass index ≥40 kg/m2) is increasing in several countries. Obesity is associated with reduced life expectancy and comorbidities of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Good health involves more than balancing calories consumed and energy expended. It is important to choose foods which are rich in vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and essential amino acids. Just as people are not good in consuming the proper number of calories (2/3 of American adults are overweight or obese), we often fail to eat nutrient-dense foods. When Americans should be consuming 250-500 mg daily of omega-3 fatty acids, Papanikolaou and colleagues report they eat only 41 mg eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 72 mg docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Unfortunately, suboptimal micronutrient status can coexist with obesity. When reviewing a menu label, don’t just count calories. Follow MyPlate and carefully select portions of fruit, vegetables, grains, protein foods, dairy, and oils.

Main Citation

Lee-Kwan SH, Pan L, Maynard L, Kumar G, Park S. Restaurant Menu Labeling Use Among Adults – 17 States. 2014 MMWR 63(27):581-584

Other Citations

Krieger J, Saelens BE. Impact of menu labeling on consume behavior: a 2008-2012 update. Mineapolis, MN. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2013; Available here.

Papanikolaou Y, Brooks J, Reider C, Fulgoni VL. US adults are not meeting recommended levels for fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake: results of an analysis using observational data from NHANES 2003-2008. 2014 Nutr J doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-64

Hoque ME, Doi SAR, Mannan M, Long K, Niessen LW, Mamun AA. Prevalence of overweight and obesity among children of the Indian subcontinent : a meta-analysis. 2014 Nutr Rev doi: 10.1111/nure.12130

Lazzeri G, Giacchi MV, Spinelli A, Pammoli A, Dalmasso P, Nardone P, Lamberti A, Cavallo F. Overweight among students aged 11-15 years and its relationship with breakfast, area of residence and parents education: results from the Italian HBSC 20110 cross-sectional study. 2014 Nutr J doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-69

Kitahara CM, Flint AJ, de Gonzalez AB, Bernstein L, Brotzman M, MacInnis RJ, Moore SC, Robien K, Rosenberg PS, Singh PN, Weiderpass E, Adami HO, Anton-Culver H, Ballard-Barbash R, Buring JE, Freedman DM, Fraser GE, Beane Freeman LE, Gapstur SM, Gaziano JM, Giles GG, Hakansson N, Hoppin JA, Hu FB, Koenig K, Linet MS, Park Y, Patel AV, Purdue MP, Schairer C, Sesso HD, Visvanathan K, White E, Wolk A, Zeleniuch-Jacquotte A, Hartge P. Association between class III obesity (BMI of 40-59 kg/m2) and mortality: A pooled analysis of 20 prospective studies. 2014 PLoS Med doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001673