The Healthy Menu Choices Act (Bill 45, Making Healthier Choices Act), aims to provide you with calorie information, which can help you make food and drink choices while dining out.

What is menu labelling?

Menu labelling means providing nutrition information, specifically calories, for both food and drink items on the menu or menu board in restaurants and food service establishments.

Why menu labelling and why were calories added to the menu?

Menu labelling helps people make informed choices when dining out. It’s hard to know what’s in your restaurant meal; it may look healthy but it’s easy to underestimate the amount of calories and sodium. Many restaurant chains already provide nutrition information to customers who ask for it. Providing calories on menus helps customers make decisions right at the time of purchase without having to search websites or other brochures.  Using calorie information can help you to make choices that are best for you and help you to meet your health goals.

Calorie needs are different for each person.  It depends on your age, gender, your activity level and other health issues.  This chart can be used as a general guideline when making menu choices.  Talk to your health care provider to discuss individual calorie needs for you and your family.

What does this mean?

All restaurants within Ontario with 20 locations or more will be required to display the number of calories for all food and beverage items on their menus or menu boards. To help consumers better understand their choices, a statement about average daily calorie requirements will also be required. This applies to all food service establishments including grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and movie theatres.

What about other nutrition information?

A statement that helps customers figure out how many calories they should have per day will be posted on every menu or sign that is visible when customers order. Additional nutrient information such as fat, sodium, total carbohydrates, fibre, sugars, and protein will not be posted on the menu. Most foodservice premises have more detailed nutrition information online. Be sure to ask for it!

What about alcoholic beverages?

Many people don’t realize how many calories are in alcoholic beverages.  There are calories from the alcohol itself, and for mixed drinks, there are calories from the mixes that may be added to the beverage.  The calories in alcohol vary as there are many different serving sizes and different types of alcohol.  One standard drink (one bottle of 5% beer, or one 5 oz glass of 12% wine, or 1 1/2 oz. of hard liquor) equals about 100 calories.  Drinking alcohol can also lead to other health risks like heart disease and cancer.  Follow Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines to help reduce your risk.

How can I make healthier choices when I am eating out?

Most restaurants have healthier options available.

Fast food and take-out places are popular when you are looking for something quick on the go. Here are some tips to help you make a healthier choice when eating out. 

At the burger place: Choose the kid's meal, a grilled chicken sandwich or a salad with low fat dressing (on the side). Skip the fries and have a baked potato, salad or fruit.

 At the pizza place: Ask for whole grain (or whole wheat) crust. Instead of the extra cheese and pepperoni, get a slice loaded with veggies and grilled chicken. 

 At the sandwich shop: Here's your chance to fill up on fibre. Ask for whole grain or whole wheat bread and choose as many veggies as you can. Lean meats like turkey, chicken, ham or roast beef are also good choices. Have the smaller sandwich size with a salad on the side.

 At the coffee shop: Those creamy drinks are tempting, but the sugar and fat can add up quickly. Order the small or regular sized coffee, cappuccino or iced latté. Ask for your drink to be made with low fat or skim milk or soy beverage, and skip the whipped cream topping.

An 8 oz cup of coffee has about 85 mg of caffeine. Health Canada recommends consuming no more than 400 mg of caffeine each day (this is about 4 cups of coffee). The "small" sized coffees that you buy are usually 12-16 oz (1.5-2 cups). When you buy a large, you may be getting as much as 32 oz. (4 cups) of coffee. Drink this much and you will have maxed out on the amount of caffeine you should be drinking for the day!

At the Asian Eatery: Good choices are the steamed dumplings, steamed buns and veggies. Cold salad rolls, sushi, and soups can also make for a healthy and quick lunch. Try to avoid the deep fried veggies, noodles and spring rolls.

 

*Tip: Try to make up your mind about what you're going to eat before walking into the cafeteria or food court. This may help prevent you from giving in to less healthy temptations.

Top 10 Tips for Eating Out has some things you can ask for.

Are there any exclusions?

Child Cares, schools, correctional institutes and any establishments that are open for 90 days or less such as farmers markets, are exempt from the regulation.

How will this be enforced?

Public Health Inspectors will be monitoring to ensure compliance.

For more information:

Menu Labelling Frequently Asked Questions – Ontario Ministry of Health

Email: menulabelling@ontario.ca