A recent study asserts that the energy and sodium content of main entrées served in U.S. chain restaurants has remained unchanged over a one-year period, despite the enactment of federal regulations requiring menu labeling. Helen Wu & Roland Sturm, “Changes in the Energy and Sodium Content of Main Entrées in US Chain Restaurants from 2010 to 2011,” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, October 2013. Relying on data collected from chain restaurant Websites between spring 2010 and spring 2011, the study’s authors noted that “mean energy and sodium did not change significantly overall, although mean sodium was 70 mg lower across all restaurants in added vs removed menu items at the 75th percentile.” They also reported that even though fast-food chains reduced the mean energy in children’s menu entrées by 40 kcal, the adult-sized dishes with reduced sodium levels “far exceeded recommended limits,” while not all significant changes in energy or sodium content “were in the healthier direction.”
“Restaurant menus did not get any healthier over time,” said study author Helen Wu, a policy and research analyst at the Institute for Population Health Improvement at UC Davis Health System. “Across the restaurant industry, we see a pattern of one step forward, one step back. Restaurants make changes to their menus regularly, but they may make both healthy and unhealthy changes simultaneously. This study provides objective evidence that overall, we did not see a new wave of healthier entrées come in to replace less healthy ones.” See UC Davis Health System Press Release, October 1, 2013.