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Making healthy choices while dining out

A woman at a restaurant reviewing a menuThe Healthy Menu Choices Act helps York Region residents make informed decisions when eating out. Food service premises that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations in Ontario are required to display calorie information for every standard food and beverage item on their menu. Some examples of these include restaurants, fast food chains, coffee shops, movie theatres and grocery stores.

Calories for food and beverages (including alcohol) can be found on menus, menu boards, websites, ads and drive-through boards.

York Region Public Health Inspectors visit food service premises to ensure food safety compliance and now also compliance with the Healthy Menu Choices Act. Complaints or questions can be directed to Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653. Press #4 to speak with a Public Health Inspector.

Healthy Eating When Dining Out

Meals and snacks purchased outside of the home are generally high in calories, sodium, sugar, and fat while low in vegetables, fruit and fibre. Calories in food and drinks can be difficult to guess and most people underestimate the amount of calories in their food and drinks when eating out.

Displaying calories on menus will help consumers make healthier and informed food and beverages choices when dining out and ordering take-out.

Calories are an important source of energy for our bodies. We get calories from food and drinks. It is important to know how many calories you need each day to get the right amount of energy and manage your health.

Along with calorie information, there also needs to be a statement on the menu with the average calories that adults, youth and children need in a day. This will help consumers understand their calorie needs and meal and snack choices.  On average, adults and youth (ages 13 and over) need about 2000 calories a day and children (ages four to 12) need about 1500 calories a day however individual calorie needs vary based on age, gender and activity level.

It is important to remember that calories are one component to healthy eating. Calories only tell you how much energy a food or drink will provide. Other things to consider is how the food is prepared and other nutrients like sugar, salt, and saturated fat. For example, a chicken spinach salad and a burger might have similar calorie count but it is also important to consider the nutritional value of food. The salad would be a good source of vitamins, fibre and other important nutrients.

Other tips when dining out:

  • Order veggies as sides and toppings on sandwiches
  • Choose water instead of pop or juice
  • Watch portion sizes
  • Go for whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice and quinoa
  • Ask for sauces and condiments on the side
  • Consider how the food is prepared. Healthy cooking methods include baking, steaming, roasting and grilling.
  • Choose restaurants that offer variety

If you want to know more about the nutrition content of foods and drinks, most food outlets provide additional nutrition information in-store or on their website.

For more information on healthy eating, call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 to speak to a registered dietitian at no cost.

The Regional Municipality of York en-US

Food Service Operators

If you own or operate a food premise with 20 or more locations in Ontario, you are required to comply with the menu labelling legislation.

Here are key documents that will help you implement the Act in your food premise:

Healthy Menu Choices Act, 2015 – Ontario Regulation 50/16

A Guide to Menu Labeling Requirements in Regulated Food Service Premises in Ontario – learn how to implement Ontario’s menu labelling legislation and get answered to frequently asked questions

Calories on menus: information for businesses (Government of Ontario) – learn how to post the number of calories on your menus, tags and labels for the food and drinks you sell

Grocery Stores – learn how the legislation applies to regulated grocery stores

Convenience Stores – learn how the legislation applies to regulated convenience stores

Cafeteria-Style Food Service Premises – learn how the legislation applies to regulated Cafeteria-Style Food Service Premises

Movie Theatres - learn how the legislation applies to regulated movie theatres

Quick Service / Fast Food Restaurants - learn how the legislation applies to regulated quick service restaurants

Restaurants - learn how the legislation applies to regulated restaurants

Self – Serve items - learn how the legislation applies to regulated food service premises offering self-serve food and beverage items for sale

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food labels,calories,nutrition The Regional Municipality of York en-US What's on the Menu? text with a woman scanning a menu at a restaurant Making healthy choices while dining out Menu labelling is a tool to help residents make healthier and informed food and beverages choices when eating out and purchasing take-away meals.

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