McDonald’s To Post Calorie Information on Its Menu

September 13, 2012
Now diners will be able to tell exactly how artery-clogging that Angus Bacon Double Cheeseburger is -- BEFORE they buy.

Good news: McDonald’s will soon be taking the initiative — in advance of a likely federal regulation that may be coming early next year — to post calorie information on its menu. Calorie information is already available from most fast food chains on their websites, and occasionally in paper leaflets available at individual stores, but is rarely obvious in a way as to inform the choices of the casual diner.

The decision announced today to start listing calorie information in an obvious way on McDonald’s menus will help empower diners make better choices, and likely without affecting McDonald’s bottom line. (Ater all, what diner is likely to actually leave a restaurant for another option based on the caloric information of their choices? Most customers will likely just choose a less calorically dense meal relative to what they walked into the restaurant for.)

But the question remains whether this move will alone be enough to improve the health of the average American. And the answer is most likely “no”.

The problem is that there’s a dearth of nutrition education in America, particularly among the working class and middle class customers that frequent fast food franchises. Even among Americans with a high school education or above, there’s a general ignorance over serving sizes, balanced diets, or even how to assess one’s individual caloric needs. Consider: there’s been quite a bit of discussion over school lunches and other food access concerns in public education, but relatively little discussion over how we properly educate students on nutrition. And for lower-class families, for whom there may not even be high school-level education, the chances that proper understanding of what caloric information means is even less.

For example, few Americans are aware that the 2000 calories per day rule of thumb, recommended by the FDA, is geared towards healthy adult men. In fact, USA Today reports in an article that 2/3 of those surveyed incorrectly reported their daily caloric needs, and that 25% wouldn’t even hazard a guess — this combined with a sidebar infographic from USA Today that woefully over-estimates the caloric needs for men and women of various age groups. It turns out that women and children — as well as men who may need to lose weight — require substantially fewer calories per day than the FDA recommended 2000 calories. For me, a moderately active woman standing at 5’2″, I only require about 1400-1800 calories per day, which I could consume in one sitting with a single McDonald’s sandwich.

Secondly, there’s simply too much emphasis on caloric information; yet a balanced diet requires additional information including fat and protein content for a meal. One could eat all one’s daily calories in Doritos and still not eat a healthy diet. Posting caloric information, without access (or public emphasis) on the other aspects of nutrition encourages consumers to think that hitting calorie marks is all one needs to eat properly.

These caveats aside, this is a good first step towards a more healthy America as well as a more empowered consumer base, and for that I applaud McDonald’s in its announcement today. The key to combating America’s obesity epidemic must lie in a more educated American consumer, and part of that comes from realizing that a Big Mac with large fries and coke is a whopping 2000 calories all by itself.

Mmmm.... all my daily caloric requirements all in one concentrated, heart attack-inducing form. Yum.

Related: Here’s Mayo Clinic’s Daily Calorie calculator, however I typically recommend that most people eat based on their basal metabolic rate (BMR) because 1) folks tend to under-estimate the calories they eat based on “serving size dysmorphia” (servings are actually much smaller than most of us realize so as a consequence people tend to eat more calories than they think they are), and 2) because activity level is often both over-reported and inconsistent from day-to-day. ExRx has a slightly less user-friendly calculator, but one that can distinguish both your BMR vs. your “activity-based” caloric requirements.

Did you like this content? Please consider becoming a patron of Reappropriate and get exclusive access to the brand new Reappropriate vlog!

Comment Policy

Before posting, please review the following guidelines:

  • No ad hominem attacks: A person's identity, personal history, or background is not up for debate. Talk about ideas, not people.
  • Be courteous: Respect everyone else in this space.
  • Present evidence: This space endeavours to encourage academic and rational debate around identity politics. Do your best to build an argument backed not just with your own ideas, but also with science.
  • Don't be pedantic: Listen to those debating you not just for places to attack, but also where you might learn and even change your own opinion. Repeatedly arguing the same point irrespective of presented counterfacts will now be considered a violation of this site's comment policy.
  • Respect the humanity of all groups: To elevate the quality of debate, this site will no longer tolerate (racial, cultural, gender, etc.) supremacist or inferiority lines of argumentation. There are other places on the internet where nationalist arguments can be expressed; this blog is not those places.
  • Don't be an asshole: If you think your behaviour would get you punched in the face outside of the internets, don't say it on the internets.
  • Don't abuse Disqus features: Don't upvote your own comments. Don't flag other people's comments without reasonable cause. Basically, don't try to game the system. You are not being slick.

Is your comment not approved, unpublished, or deleted? Here are some common reasons why:

  • Did you sign in? You are required to register an account with Disqus or one of your social media accounts in order to comment.
  • Did your comment get caught in the spam filter? Disqus is set to automatically detect and filter out spam comments. Sometimes, its algorithm gets over-zealous, particularly if you post multiple comments in rapid succession, if your comment contains keywords often associated with spam, and/or if your comment contains multiple links. If your comment has been erroneously caught in the spam filter, contact me and I will retrieve it.
  • Did a comment get flagged? Comments will be default be published but flagged comments will be temporarily removed from view until they are reviewed by me.
  • Did you not play nice? You may have gotten banned and a bunch of your comments may have been therefore deleted. Sorry.

I monitor all comment threads, and try to address comments requiring moderation within 24-48 hours. Comments that violate this comment policy may receive a warning and removal of offensive content; overt or repeat violations are subject to deletion and/or banning of comment authors without warning.

I reserve final decision over how this comment policy will be enforced.


Play nice and don't be a jerk, and you'll do just fine.