(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) Although a number of chain restaurants have announced healthy menu changes over the years, the overall calorie and sodium levels in main entres offered by top U.S. chain restaurants assessed from 2010 to 2011 have remained the same, according to a study published today in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The study, "Changes in the Energy and Sodium Content of Main Entres in U.S. Chain Restaurants from 2010 to 2011," evaluated the nutritional content changes of more than 26,000 regular menu entres in a year by 213 major U.S. chain restaurants nationwide. It also looked at entres among restaurants that included children's menus.
"Restaurant menus did not get any healthier over time," said Helen Wu, a policy and research analyst at the Institute for Population Health Improvement at UC Davis Health System.
Between the spring of 2010 and spring of 2011, Wu and Roland Sturm, senior economist at the RAND Corp., reviewed restaurant websites for nutrition information. They found that, even with all the substitutions and reformulations eateries made to their menus, restaurants made no meaningful nutrition changes overall. The average entre in 2010 contained 670 calories and remained at 670 calories one year later. Sodium levels only dropped from 1,515 milligrams per entre to 1,500 milligrams at follow-up.
"Across the restaurant industry, we see a pattern of one step forward, one step back," Wu said. "Restaurants make changes to their menus regularly, but they may make both healthy and unhealthy changes simultaneously. This study provides objective evidence that overall, we did not see a new wave of healthier entres come in to replace less healthy ones."
The study was conducted at a time when restaurants faced ongoing internal and external pressures to increase healthier menu offerings. For example, the study examined restaurant menu changes in the year following passage of a
|Contact: Helen Wu, Ph.D.|
University of California - Davis Health System