Menu labeling to become reality in 2017

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By Theresa Howard

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released its final guidance on menu labeling in late April, it was the last step in a process to require restaurants, convenience stores, take-out, retail establishments and supermarkets to publish the calorie content of their food on their menus.

Some chain restaurants are already publishing this information on some items in anticipation of this announcement. Others have until May 2017 to implement the change.

As food consumers, this means that for the first time, we are able to make informed decisions on all of our dining out meal purchases based on the food’s nutritional content. This is good news, as about 40 percent of the average Kentuckian’s food budget is spent on meals outside of the home. Kentucky is also known to have high rates of childhood and adult obesity.

Choosing healthier items when dining out could help you stay within your daily caloric limit and reach your ideal weight. In the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, this calorie limit varies based on age, gender and activity level. To learn what these limits are for you, visit http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-2/#footnote-3

Estimates range from 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day for adult men. Within each age and sex category, the low end of the range is for sedentary individuals; the high end of the range is for active individuals.

Here are tips for making a healthy salad choice when eating out. Look for these components: mixed greens, spinach or kale will make you feel fuller and provide more nutrients than iceberg lettuce, which has a high water content and low nutrient content. Some type of lean protein (not breaded) such as chicken, fish, beans or hardboiled egg.  Add as many other vegetables as possible.

For a healthier salad, steer clear of these ingredients: anything fried. Watch out for, or go light on, high calorie toppings such as croutons, wonton strips, tortilla strips. Nuts are a great way to get a protein-packed crunch that will be more filling. Go light on cheese and avoid or use less high calorie dressings.

Dining out is filled with temptation but with good label or nutrition information you can make healthier choices.