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Obamacare calorie count mandate delayed until 2018

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Chain restaurants will now have more time to comply with an Obama-era federal mandate requiring them to post calorie counts on their menus.

On May 1, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) extended the compliance deadline from May 5, 2017 to May 5, 2018.

“We are taking this action to enable us to consider how we might further reduce the regulatory burden or increase flexibility while continuing to achieve our regulatory objectives, in keeping with the Administration’s policies,” the Department of Health and Human Services notes in a new document announcing the timeline change.

Read more: 4 simple rules for healthy, budget-friendly lunches your kids will love

What does Clark think about the calorie count mandate?

Only chains with 20 locations or more would be required to post calorie counts under the federal mandate. Yet many restaurants of all sizes took it upon themselves to post calorie counts earlier this decade.

With consumers putting an increasing emphasis on eating healthy, it’s unlikely this genie can be put back in the bottle. Calorie counts on menus will likely be the new normal even if the mandate is nixed entirely down the road.

“I love the idea of you having access to calorie info,” consumer expert Clark Howard says. “Instead of controlling what you can eat, the government is giving you the info so you can decide what’s best for you to eat.”

Moreover, consumers have already changed their behavior based on those calorie counts. When the calorie counts first became widespread several years ago, The Los Angeles Times noted that most people would balk at ordering something north of 1,000 calories.

So many restaurants had to adjust their menus. Panera had a breakfast sandwich that was 650 calories. After changing the ingredients, it’s now down to 350 calories. They also have a variety of half-sandwiches at 250 calories.

IHOP’s standard bacon and eggs breakfast was 1,160 calories. But now they have alternatives like the turkey bacon breakfast with egg whites that drops to calorie count to 350.

“At McDonald’s, I have changed what I order for breakfast,” Clark says. “I used to get a Sausage McMuffin with egg that had 450 calories. Now I’ve switched to an Egg McMuffin that has Canadian bacon and checks in at 290 calories.”

Therein is the beauty of calorie counts. Let’s say that you don’t change your ordering behavior based on being shown a calorie count. Well, you still get the benefit of fewer calories because many restaurants are slimming down their offerings.

So even if you’re still ordering that fattening triple cheese whatever…it’s probably less bad for you than it once was because the restaurant found a way to make it healthier!

Yet you should beware of some “healthy” items that are really anything but that. Sports drinks, energy bars and diet soda are among the worst offenders here!

Salads too can be particularly dangerous when you’re eating out. With enough dressing and other toppings, a salad can easily be the unhealthiest thing on the menu.

Read more: 13 ‘healthy’ snacks that aren’t healthy at all

Why you shouldn’t buy restaurant gift cards

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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