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Cross-Sectional Nutritional Information and Quality of Canadian Chain Restaurant Menu Items in 2020

Published:September 22, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2022.07.015

      Introduction

      More than 50% of Canadians report regularly eating foods prepared at restaurants. The literature shows poor nutritional quality of restaurant foods. No federal policy on improving the nutritional quality of restaurant food is available except for a provincial regulation that mandates Ontario chain restaurants to display the energy content of items on menus. There is limited information on the nutrition information reporting and nutritional quality of restaurant foods. This study aimed to examine the nutrition information reporting and nutritional quality of menu items of Canadian chain restaurants in 2020.

      Methods

      Nutrition information for menu items (n=18,760) was collected and analyzed from Canadian restaurants with ≥20 outlets nationally between 2020 and 2021. Menu items were categorized into 5 categories. Descriptive statistics were calculated for serving size, energy, and saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. Percentage daily values of energy and nutrient levels were calculated following the Canadian labeling guidelines.

      Results

      Of the 201 eligible chain restaurants, 141 (70%) provided some nutrition information, of which 70 (50%) voluntarily provided the complete nutrition information that is required on prepackaged foods. Overall, menu items were high per serving in energy (mean kcal=483; 95% CI=477, 489), saturated fat (mean=7.4 g; 95% CI=7.2, 7.5), sodium (mean=867 mg; 95% CI=853, 881), and total sugars (mean=17 g; 95% CI=17, 17), and all exceeded the recommended 15% percentage daily values threshold.

      Conclusions

      Although most chain restaurants provided nutrition information, the lack of regulations regarding reporting format and provision of serving size and other nutrients challenges the assessment of the nutritional quality of menu items. Interventions to standardize nutrition information reporting and improve nutritional quality are needed in the restaurant sector.
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