Would seeing calories in fast food keep you from ordering it?
BOISE -- Something new hit Treasure Valley McDonald's menu boards Thursday -- and it's something that could make you change your mind about what you order. That's because calorie information for each food item is now on display.
By next week, all McDonald's nationwide will have the calories in each menu item posted inside each store, and also in drive-thru windows. The Treasure Valley stores decided to get ahead of the game and changed all their signs Thursday.
"The McDonald's theory is give the customer what they want, obviously," said Dick Darmody, owner and operator of all Treasure Valley McDonald's. "But, give it to them so they can make decisions as to what they should eat for a sensible diet."
By looking next to the menu items and prices, McDonald's customers can now see exactly what they are buying and eating in calorie form. McDonald's says the majority of its single menu items are less than 400 calories, something owners say might be surprising.
"I think they're going to be shocked," Darmody said. "I've already had phone calls today, people saying, 'Is that really true, Dick?' And it is true, those are the actual calories, and you build your menu accordingly."
Nutrition experts caution that appropriate meal-building is the key to healthy eating. Some also caution that extra items not listed on the menu -- like sauces and dressings -- can add to the calorie count of foods.
St. Luke's Dietitian Stacy Beeson says it's important to look at more than just a calorie count to plan a diet.
"Calories is the sum total, but it's great to know the pieces and the parts," Beeson said. "Like the grams of fat, saturated fat, sodium. A feel good amount of calories for dinner is 500 ... if you want to spend 500 calories at McDonald's, that would be 500 calories, and around 16 grams of total fat and around 5 grams of saturated fat -- keep the milligrams of sodium to around 500."
All that extra information is available online from McDonald's. However, Beeson says people are looking for convenience, and says a quick calorie comparison can help diners make a better choice on the spot.
"I do like that it's up front and center," Beeson said. "This information is available online, but some people don't use it ... when it's up front and center, it's there, and people can use that information how they want."
Beeson also says it is 'okay' to have a cheeseburger every now and then, and that the key to a healthy diet is making good daily choices and eating in moderation.
Darmody says that is how he, himself, chooses eats at his very own restaurants.
"Yes, you could way over-do your calorie count for the day, or you could be sensible and make decisions on your own, which is what we'd like to see people do," Darmody said. "Offer what they want, let them decide how much or when they'd like to eat it."
Many other restaurants already offer calorie counts on menus and online. A proposed federal regulation would require chains to share those nutrition facts possibly as early as next year.