One strategy that has been employed in helping people tighten their belts, is to tighten up the policies on nutritional labelling. This is a surprisingly recent change in regulations – it is only since the end of 2007 that labelling has been required for most Canadian products.

Alongside this trend, we have also seen an increase in availability of nutritional information in some food chains and restaurants. New York City has been a real leader in this arena – they require that nutritional information is posted on menu boards at chain restaurants.

Having said that… how often do people actually look at this nutritional information, when it is made available?

A recent study in the American Journal of Public Health says – almost NEVER! Christina Roberto and associates observed 4,311 people walking into Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King, and Au Bon Pain, all of which provide nutritional information in either poster, pamphlet, or on-site computer format.

Out of these 4,311 people, only SIX people (0.1%) consulted the nutritional information before making their purchase. (This includes five people who were counted as consulting the info simply by walking towards a wall poster and turning their heads towards it.)

In order to make healthy decisions when we are eating out, it is important to know how much energy our food choices contain. There are many hidden calories out there – for example, that Mocha Frappucino I asked you about ladles up 380 calories in a Grande – almost a third of the total day’s caloric needs for a typical woman who is trying to lose weight. (The nutritional information for any Starbucks product is readily available online by navigating from the attached link.)

In Canada, while it is not required to post nutritional information in restaurants, many chains do have this information available behind the counter. This can be in the form of a pamphlet, or sometimes a binder.

So – here’s a great opportunity to EMPOWER YOURSELF!!

The first step is to calculate what your day’s caloric needs are – you can do this with the BMR calculator in the right hand column at

The second step: Be active in your search for healthier choices. Ask for the information behind the counter. Look online before you go out! You will be surprised at how much information that is out there – and you will probably be surprised at how many calories are out there, too.

Dr. Sue © 2009