Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently offered restaurants more time to comply with new healthcare stipulations that require prominently-displayed nutritional information, some quick-service chains have already offered plenty of transparency.
McDonald's, for example, now has eight ways for guests to receive nutritional information about its menu offerings, including HealthyDiningFinder.com, which the company first joined in April.
According to Danya Proud, McDonald's spokesperson, the chain has 17 items included in the online go-to-guide that features dietitian-approved food. These options include the Egg McMuffin sandwich paired with fruit; the Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfait; and the grilled Honey Mustard Snack Wrap.
Additionally, McDonald's is ahead of the health care mandate in providing nutritional information on its website - which is no longer a rarity and is also featured at other large QSRs including Burger King, Wendy's, Subway, KFC and more - as well as on trayliners, product packaging, and a brochure that is available in restaurants.
If you're really itching to know the caloric measure of a McDonald's meal, you can also call its voice-activated toll-free number, 800-244-6227, a system that responds to nutrition questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
"We continually strive to meet our customers' needs by providing a variety of high-quality menu choices and easily accessible nutrition information," said Dr. Cynthia Goody, director of nutrition at McDonald's USA.
The chain's nutritional transparency efforts extend overseas, as well. McDonald's New Zealand, for example, recently announced its partnership with Weight Watchers. This is the first market in the world to offer customers Weight Watchers-approved meals.
McDonald's certainly isn't alone in offering transparency through third party verification. Blimpie Subs and Salads began its partnership with healthydiningfinder.com in early 2009.
Also, in the spring, Jack in the Box's grilled chicken salad was the first of its entree salads to meet the website's standards.
To qualify for the site, a restaurant's menu item must meet recommended guidelines for calories, fat and saturated fat. Additionally, the items must include a lean protein, fruit or vegetable, and/or whole grain component. HealthyDiningFinder.com currently includes more than 70,000 restaurant locations, ranging from quick-service chains to locally-based, upscale restaurants.
To encourage more chains to develop qualifying menu items, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and Healthydining.com expanded their partnership in July.
The site was originally introduced in 2006 after the NRA and California-based Healthy Dining program teamed up for its development. The site's creation was facilitated by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.