By Jessica Aragona-Shaw

A Supreme Court decision cleared the way for healthy changes in the restaurant industry, chain restaurants are now required to post nutritional information on their menus and ordering boards. Displaying calories, fat content and sodium levels on the menu or ordering board, has been promoted as a way to increase awareness and ultimately, help people make healthier choices.

In theory this sounds like a great plan, however one question remains, does it actually work? Researchers found some improvement, specifically evidence of a decrease in calories, saturated fat and sodium content after the implementation of menu regulations. The problem still remains that menu labeling is not mandatory for everyone and most small, local restaurants are exempt from the new regulations.

So, until all restaurants are required to provide nutrition information, you check the menu for descriptive words that may give you a hint as to the menu options with fewer calories or less fat or sodium.

Fewer Calories and Less Fat: “Baked” “Grilled” “Braised” “Lightly sautéed” “Broiled” “Poached” “Steamed”

More Calories and Fat: “Au gratin” “Batter fried” “Scalloped” “Hollandaise” “French-fried” “Crispy”

More Sodium: “Cured” “Smoked” “Teriyaki” “Pickled”

Jessica Aragona-Shaw is a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant specializing in holistic nutrition practices. Contact her at