Starting this month, a new FDA rule goes into effect that requires chain restaurants with over 20 locations to post calorie content on their drink menus. This may sound familiar since this is just a few years after the rule requiring chains to post calorie content on food menus. As an anti-diet dietitian, I’m always pretty triggered by anything intended to “target obesity” (which in itself is problematic), so I took to Instagram to see how you felt about it. In this segment “I asked, you answered: should restaurants post calories on drink menus?” I’m sharing the results of this conversation!
Also, thank you to everyone on Instagram who participated in this. If you’re not following me yet, definitely click here to follow and keep up with my daily stories. Obviously, I post a ton of content as traditional posts, but I’ve been having so much fun engaging with you guys in my Instagram stories!
Our story starts on a casual Monday night. I was sitting with my mom watching the news when the story about drink menu calorie listings came on. Immediately I took a video of the screen and posted it to Instagram with a poll to find out how you all felt about it.
When I woke up the next morning, the poll results were almost 50/50 and I kept getting new votes. I asked you guys to message me feedback on why you voted and decided I would wait the full 24 hours before posting any responses. By the end of the poll, the final results were: 60% voted FOR posting calories on drink menus and 40% voted AGAINST posting calories on drink menus.
Because I am clearly building the best community ever (you guys rock), I got some amazing responses on both sides of the argument. so I figured the only way to do this topic justice was to present both and then discuss my personal opinions.
I’ll include the screenshots below, but I’m going to rewrite the points for each side here so you guys can see both arguments side by side.
Yes, Post Calories on Drink Menus
- May help people who don’t know a lot about health to make more informed decisions
- Consistency – If food calories are required for major chains then drink calories should be required too (thank you @jenamarierd for this)
- May encourage people to drink less
- A few mentioned they’d be more likely to skip dessert to have alcohol instead (whether or not this is beneficial is another topic entirely)
- It’s pretty well known that we’re not drinking alcohol for health, so this might help people choose less sugary options
No, Don’t Post Calories on Drink Menus
- If someone doesn’t know much about health, posting calories might reinforce the idea that health = calories in – calories out
- Posting this information may be triggering
for people in eating disorder or diet recovery
- May encourage people to restrict food or skip eating entirely in order to drink more
- May cause people to feel unnecessarily guilty about calories when they would otherwise be having fun and enjoying themselves
- I’m a big believer that the more focused we become on calories, the less we are able to really listen to our bodies
So… should restaurants post calories on drink menus?
- I personally think nutrition information should be available upon request but not posted. For people with limited health knowledge, I would even say that restaurants should write on their menu that nutrition information is available so people KNOW to ask for it. I feel very strongly that calorie information can be triggering for a lot of people who obsess about food or who are in recovery, but I also know that health knowledge is very privileged, so finding a middle ground can be tough!
- I’d be more on board with posting little icons for items that are “diabetic-friendly” similar to heart-healthy labels. I think this would make a lot more sense for people who don’t know what calories mean. Also, calories are a pretty useless measurement of health, but that’s a whole different conversation.
- I know WAY too many people who often skip meals in order to “save calories” while drinking and it terrifies me. I worry that this will encourage people to drink on an empty stomach, which is very dangerous.
- I also worry that our society has become way too calorie-obsessed when there are so many other things that matter more for health. I don’t think it’s healthy to be freaking out over your calorie count while out with friends enjoying a meal, even if that meal is high in calories. The stress is more harmful to your health than the meal will ever be.
- At the end of the day, this is only happening in big chains and I can’t help but point out that Starbucks put calories on their menu a long time ago and we’re all still fine. I’m sure it will have both positive and negative effects on people’s health, so only time will tell!
Last but not least…
If you stress out about calories, are in eating disorder recovery, have an unhealthy relationship with food or your body, or just don’t want to be bothered by the calorie content of your margarita, the easiest way to avoid this rule is to not go to chain restaurants (aka support small businesses!).
And if you do get triggered by drink menu calories, remember that you are still allowed to eat even if you’re also drinking. In fact, you NEED to eat when you drink. It is dangerous to drink on an empty stomach, so please don’t!!
Start healing your relationship with food!
Sign up for exclusive coaching emails where I talk about my personal diet recovery journey, strategies I use with clients, and how you can start repairing your body image and eating intuitively today.