If you’re eating out tonight —and want to watch your calories —you should order one of the newer items on the menu, a new report suggests.
Many of the nation’s chain restaurants have been introducing entrees with fewer calories. Based on data from 66 leading chain restaurants, entrees that have been added since 2012 have 60 fewer calories on average than menu staples, according to the study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Sixty calories may not seem like much, but it adds up. On average, Americans eat out four or five times a week, according to the National Restaurant Association. When we eat out, we tend to consume about 200 additional total calories a day, including foods higher in sugar, saturated fat and sodium, according to an August study from the American Cancer Society. So, every cut in calories helps.
And as Jenna Wolfe, TODAY lifestyle and fitness correspondent, shows: small changes can save you hundreds of calories every day.
The slight decline in restaurant menu calories is an “excellent first step” in grappling with America’s obesity epidemic, says Sara Bleich, an author of the study and associate professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The newer, lower-calorie items tend to be soups, salads and sandwiches, not the bacon cheeseburgers or heavy, cheesy pasta dishes that have been long-time favorites among consumers.
But “as people become more educated, they will demand even more healthier foods when dining out,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, manager of wellness nutrition services at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, via email.
The Johns Hopkins report examined data from 2012 to 2013 from MenuStat, a census of food from the largest chain fast-food, fast-casual, and sit-down restaurants in the United States.