Informed Dining takes guesswork off the menu
Blog Author: Tara Lyon
How often do you find yourself perusing a restaurant menu with a nagging voice at the back of your head reminding you that you’ve definitely heard that a chicken ceasar salad has more calories than a deluxe burger? And have you then thought to yourself that you’d really prefer the salad despite the extra calories, but wondered just how many more calories you’d have to work off later at the gym?
If this scenario sounds familiar, there’s good news for you: the BC government has partnered with several restaurants in the province to launch a nutrition information program called Informed Dining, providing consumers with detailed nutritional and calorie information on all menu items at participating restaurants.
The Informed Dining tagline encourages customers to “Stop guessing, start asking.” Before ordering, customers will be able to review the nutritional information provided, which includes the 13 core nutrients and their units of measure, calorie information, and daily calorie and sodium requirements as recommended by Health Canada.
The program, launched earlier this month by HealthyFamiliesBC, was first implemented in health care facilities--participation is mandatory for all retail food establishments in publicly funded, health authority-owned or -operated facilities (the program should be fully implemented by 2015).
Participation in the Informed Dining for Restaurants program is voluntary. Restaurants are encouraged to participate by the lure of being seen as leaders in helping consumers make healthy dining choices, and inclusion in government promotions and advertising campaigns. Participating restaurants must display the program logo and a statement on the menu advising customers that nutrition information is available. Information can be provided as a menu insert or appendix, in a supplemental nutrition brochure, or on a prominently displayed poster.
Restaurants choosing to participate are responsible for assessing calorie and nutrient content using any reliable and verifiable nutrient analysis system. The program provides a guide to help restaurants through the analysis process, including contact info for nutrient analysis laboratories in BC, and information about how consultants--such as registered dietitians--can help ensure that analysis is as accurate as possible by accounting for the effects of cooking and processing on food items. Resources to train restaurant staff are also available.
From now until 10 June, visitors to the Informed Dining site can enter to win gift certificates to participating restaurants, as well as a $2500 “Cook like a chef & learn from a dietitian” grand prize.
I personally look forward to making some guilt-free (or at least reduced-guilt) choices at some of my favorite restaurants in the near future!