McDonalds Adding Calorie Counts To Menus, Drive-Thrus

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We’ve come a long way since the days of “supersize me.” McDonald’s has decided that it will be even more transparent about how many calories are in its cheeseburgers–along with everything else.

On Tuesday, the chain announced that calorie counts for all of its offerings will be posted on menus and drive-thrus at its restaurants in the United States. Now you won’t have to look online to find out that scarfing down a Big Mac will set you back 550 calories and devouring a six-piece McNugget meal (with ranch dressing, of course) clocks in at 390 calories. Those numbers will be staring right back at you as you’re waiting to order.

(MORE: McDonald’s Goes Vegetarian in India)

The company’s decision was framed as a nudge towards making its consumers more health-conscious. But the AP’s Candice Choi notes that, under a regulation included in the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act, restaurants that operate more than 20 locations will be required to post such calorie listings. Taking that into consideration, McDonald’s decision feels a bit more inevitable.

The chain’s new nutrition push doesn’t stop with calorie postings. For those wondering if they’ll be able to order more “seasonal fruit and vegetables options, such as blueberries and cucumbers, during peak seasons” at a McDonald’s, well, starting in 2013 you may be able to do just that, according to the press release. Of course, transitioning away from burgers and fries has been the chain’s plan for awhile: as The New York Times magazine noted in a May profile, last year was the first that McDonald’s sold “more pounds of chicken than pounds of beef.”

While posting calorie counts on menus is seen as one way to encourage better eating, there’s still debate about their effectiveness. In 2010, a study published in the journal Pediatrics found that parents chose items with less calories for their children when calorie counts were displayed. However, a study conducted in New York City — where such listings have been mandatory since 2008 — and reported on by Reuters found that only one in six customers altered their menu choice because of calorie displays.

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