Calorie counts to appear in trains, planes, groceries and theaters

Man sitting in front of story-high picture of sandwichAnyone trying to watch their calorie intake knows the difficulty of sizing up the movie popcorn, spring rolls or deep-fried Snickers they buy at locations other than restaurants. Now the Food and Drug Administration is taking major steps to help consumers know just how much damage those food choices are causing to their waistline.

As part of The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2010, the FDA is imposing new requirements for labeling on ready-to-eat foods, that cover more than just traditional restaurants. You will soon see calorie information listed on the menus at movie theaters, airlines, trains, grocery store food courts, convenience stores and even hot dog stands.

The law covers food vendors that sell food for immediate consumption, even if not eaten on-site. However, not every food provider is covered by the law; it only pertains to corporate entities with 20 or more locations, including franchisees. The one-man pretzel stand would be exempt, unless he owns a franchise of a chain.

What will this mean to you? You'll eventually see the calorie count of each menu selection printed right alongside the menu item. More detailed nutrition info in written form will also be conveniently available to you.

Daily specials and temporary items offered for fewer than 60 days are year are not covered, so I expect to see more of these from food providers that find compliance a burden.

The FDA is giving food vendors time to assimilate these new requirements and prepare, so don't expect the change to come this year. In the interim, WebMD has a very helpful Food-O-Meter to help you estimate calories
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