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Prairie Fare: Restaurants May Offer More Nutrition Information in the Future

Along with the calorie information on menu boards or menus, the FDA’s proposed rule also states that restaurants would list 2,000 daily calories as a reference point while pointing out that people’s daily needs vary.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Did you notice the calories posted on the menu board? I didn’t know that sandwich had 1,100 calories! I picked something else,” the woman said.

“Yes, that was really neat. I chose something else, too,” her companion said.

I didn’t mean to be eavesdropping on their conversation, but they were sitting in the booth right behind me chatting quite loudly. My ears perk up when people talk about food and nutrition, too.

I also had noticed the calories posted on the menu board. It certainly helped with side-by-side food comparisons as we stood in line waiting to place our order.

In the future, restaurants with 20 or more locations may be required to post calories on their menus or menu boards, according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed rules. Many chain restaurants already provide brochures or other material with nutritional information upon request, but this ruling would place nutritional information “front and center” for consumer viewing.

Most food products carry a nutrition label for comparison purposes, which can help guide consumers as they shop in grocery stores. According to the FDA, American consumers, on average, get about one-third of their calories from food eaten away from home. This new rule would allow consumers to make informed choices about their foods in restaurants.

Along with the calorie information on menu boards or menus, the FDA’s proposed rule also states that restaurants would list 2,000 daily calories as a reference point while pointing out that people’s daily needs vary.

In addition to restaurants, vending machine operators with 20 or more locations also may need to post nutrition information in the future unless the nutrition information on the packages is visible. If you want to weigh in on the discussion, you can learn more by visiting the FDA website at http://www.fda.gov or post comments at http://www.regulations.gov.

If you go to a restaurant without nutritional information available, you can use some other strategies to reduce your calorie intake and avoid waistline expansion.

  • Ask your server if smaller portions are available. Sometimes you can order a half-portion. Another option is to get an extra plate and share an entree with your dining companion.
  • Order a takeout box right away and pack away part of your food before you begin to eat. People tend to eat what is placed in front of them, so “out of sight, out of mouth.”
  • Choose grilled, baked, steamed or stir-fried foods instead of fried.
  • To reduce calories and fat, choose marinara or other tomato-based sauces instead of cream sauces.
  • Order your salad dressings and other sauces on the side. Try dipping the tines of your fork into the sauce first, then into the food.
  • If you can’t resist dessert, share it. Ask for two or more spoons or forks.
  • Drink ice water instead of beverages with calories.
  • Eat slowly. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full. Talk a lot and remember your mom’s rule: Don’t talk with your mouth full.

This recipe is courtesy of Washington State University Clark County Extension. Baked Mozzarella Sticks are similar to the restaurant-style appetizer but lower in fat and calories.

Baked Mozzarella Sticks

1 (12-ounce) package reduced-fat mozzarella string cheese

1 egg

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

8 Tbsp. panko (Japanese) bread crumbs

1/2 c. prepared spaghetti sauce, warmed (optional)

Position rack in upper-third of oven and preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Remove cheese from packaging and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk egg until foamy. In a small nonstick skillet, mix Italian seasoning with bread crumbs and place over medium heat. Cook and stir bread crumbs until lightly browned, about five minutes. Dip one piece of string cheese in egg until coated and then into toasted bread crumbs, coating completely. Redip the string cheese in egg and again into the bread crumbs, if desired. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining string cheese and place on baking sheet 1 1/2 inches apart. Spray string cheese lightly with cooking spray. Bake five to six minutes until heated through. Note: The cheese may melt slightly and lose shape. Simply press it back into place. Serve immediately. Pair with warmed spaghetti sauce as a dip.

Makes six servings. Each two-mozzarella stick serving has 172 calories, 9 grams (g) of fat, 9 g of carbohydrate, 14 g of protein and 35 percent of the daily recommendation for calcium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – March 14, 2013

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu


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