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Large Chain Restaurants Voluntarily Cutting Calories In Their Menu Items

Update Date: Oct 08, 2014 08:52 AM EDT

Large chain restaurants, whose core menu offerings are generally high in calories, fat and sodium, have introduced newer food and beverage option that, on average, contain 60 fewer calories than their traditional menu selections two years ago, according to a new research. 

According to researchers, this could herald a trend in calorie reduction in anticipation of expected new federal government rules requiring large chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus. 

"If the average number of calories consumed at each visit was reduced by approximately 60 calories-the average decline we observed in newly introduced menus in our study-the impact on obesity could be significant," said Sara N. Bleich, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School, and lead author of the study, in the press release.

Researchers used data from MenuStat and looked at menu option in 66 of the 100 largest U.S. restaurant chains for 2012 and 2o13. Researchers found that lower-calorie items fell into the categories of main course, beverages and children's menus.

"You can't prohibit people from eating fast food, but offering consumers lower calorie options at chain restaurants may help reduce caloric intake without asking the individual to change their behavior - a very difficult thing to do," Bleich added. "Given that the federal menu-labeling provisions outlined in the 2010 Affordable Care Act are not yet in effect, this voluntary action by large chain restaurants to offer lower calorie menu options may indicate a trend toward increased transparency of nutritional information, which could have a significant impact on obesity and the public's health."

Findings of the research appear in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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