Report: Chain Restaurants Have Cut An Average Of 60 Calories From New Menu Items

While a calorie count isn’t the full story of a dish’s healthiness, menus around America have nonetheless been trimming calories from their items, according to a new study that looked at restaurant chains in 2012 compared to 2013. On average, new menu items lost 60 calories from one year to the next.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health tell NPR’s The Salt blog that the slimdown is about a 12% decline.

“It was not a surprise,” says the leader of the study tells NPR, partly because rules in some cities that require restaurants to post calorie counts has helped make people aware of what exactly they’re eating.

And when a federal rule goes into effect that will expand that calorie-posting effort nationwide as part of the Affordable Care Act (it’s expected to be finalized this year), even more restaurants will likely feel the urge to slim down as well.

Researchers looked at more than 19,000 menu items from 66 of the nation’s largest chains, including McDonald’s, Arby’s, Panera, Chipotle and full-service options like IHOP and Outback Steakhouse. But instead of creating leaner burgers or cutting down on the cheese in your grilled cheese, researchers point out, most of the cuts are coming from new things on the menu like salads and drinks

What difference does 60 fewer calories a day make? The lead researchers points out that it’s an excess of fewer than 200 calories a day that contributes to obesity. And if you’re eating out multiple times a week, any little cut could count.

Restaurants Shave Calories Off New Menu Items [The Salt]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.