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Restaurant menus -- and this database -- can help you keep track of calories

BOOSTER SHOTS: Oddities, musings and news from the
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January 10, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health
(South Florida Sun-Sentinel )

If you haven’t noticed yet, some restaurant menus carry more numbers these days -- and they're not necessarily higher prices. By March, restaurant chains with more than 20 locations are required to post the number of calories in items on their menus.

Disclosing calories in foods that restaurants serve was part of the healthcare reform act signed into law last year. Here's a good explanation of the act and the law's provisions from the National Restaurant Assn.

However, don't expect to see nutritional breakdowns like you see in grocery stores. You can get that information but the menus mostly contain the calories in each serving -- which can be eye popping. For example, if you think you're making a healthy choice at IHOP by picking an omelet over waffles, think again. The Colorado Omelet has 1,120 calories compared with a plain Belgian waffle that's just 360 calories (but not if you add toppings).

Nutritional information for restaurant food isn't new -- many online sites carry this information. But seeing calorie counts for anything other than "slim alternatives" on the menu is. And it may affect what you choose to order -- and maybe that's the point.

This calorie database of restaurant meals from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel offers calories and nutritional breakdowns for many restaurant chains. Take a look and plan your lunch or dinner -- to avoid "sticker shock" when you open the menu.

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