Eating out can be convenient, enjoyable and a nice way to connect with friends and family, but it can be hard to make informed choices.
That’s why the Informed Dining program helps British Columbians get the nutrition information they need to make informed choices when eating at participating food service establishments.
FAST FACT: Almost one quarter of all Canadian household food dollars are spent in restaurants.
Explore the Informed Dining site to:
- Get the list of all participating food service establishments
- Find out how your business can take part
- Learn more about healthy choices when eating out
About Informed Dining
The Informed Dining program is a voluntary nutrition information program for food service establishments developed by the Province of British Columbia. Participating food service establishments provide their guests with nutrition information before or at the point of ordering- for all standard menu items.
For a one page summary of Informed Dining highlights, see Program Overview Infographic.
Why focus on calories and sodium?
Eating out can be a special treat and a time for a little indulgence. However, if you eat out regularly, you may be eating more calories and sodium than you expect.
When grocery shopping, you can look at the Nutrition Facts table on packaged foods for nutrition information to help you make an informed choice. When eating out, however, this information is often not available. Eating too many calories makes it difficult to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Just a few extra calories a day can tip the balance. Excess weight can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and various cancers.
We all need some sodium, but most of us eat about 3400 mg of sodium per day – well above the recommended range of 1500 to 2300 mg for healthy adults. Diets high in sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which can result in stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Eating less sodium can help you and your family stay healthy and feel your best.
Daily calorie and sodium requirements
Calorie and sodium needs differ depending on a number of factors such as age, gender and activity level. The following chart can be used as a general guideline when making menu choices.
|Recommended||No More Than|
|Adult (71+ years)||1,750 to 2,200 kcal||1,200 mg||2,300 mg|
|Adult (51-70 years)||1,850 to 2,350 kcal||1,300 mg||2,300 mg|
|Adult (19-50 years)||2,000 to 2,700 kcal||1,500 mg||2,300 mg|
|Children (14-18 years)||2,100 to 2,900 kcal||1,500 mg||2,300 mg|
|Children (9-13 years)||1,600 to 2,250 kcal||1,500 mg||2,300 mg|
|Children (4-8 years)||1,350 to 1,750 kcal||1,200 mg||1,900 mg|
|Children (2-3 years)||1,250 to 1,350 kcal||1,000 mg||1,500 mg|
* The average calorie ranges provided are based on typical daily living activities plus 30 - 60 minutes of daily moderate activity. Individual values may be different. (Source: Health Canada)
What about alcoholic beverages?
Many people don't realize how many calories are in alcoholic beverages. Both alcohol and the mixes added to make a cocktail add calories.
As a general guideline, the higher the percentage of alcohol and the sweeter a drink, the more calories it contains. For example a double rum and cola can have 310 calories and a Daiquiri can have as much as 475 calories.
Some cocktails are also very high in sodium, for example a Caesar can have as much as 660 mg of sodium.
Common alcoholic beverages and their average calorie content:
Note: Actual calories of alcoholic beverages may vary; the addition of mixes will increase the calories of these beverages. Standard serving sizes are based on one drink as outlined in Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.
|Standard Alcoholic Beverages||Standard Beverage Size||Approximate Average Calories
per Standard Serving Size
|Red Wine (12%)||142 ml (5 oz.) glass||130|
|White Wine (12%)||142 ml (5 oz.) glass||120|
|Regular Beer (5%)||341 ml (12 oz.) bottle||150|
|Light Beer (4%)||341 ml (12 oz.) bottle||100|
|Spirits (40%)||43 ml (1.5 oz.) shot||100|
Healthy tips for eating out
You can also use these healthy eating tips for eating out:
- Look for meals that make fruit or veggies the star of the plate - At self-serve stations, fill half your plate with fruits and veggies
- Say "no!" to supersizing - Avoid extra calories in food and beverages by choosing half or regular sized portions.
- Share your food - Order two side salads and split an entree with a friend.
- Avoid the "my eyes are bigger than my stomach" syndrome - To avoid overeating, have a piece of fruit or drink a glass of water with lemon 30 minutes before your meal.
- Words to watch for - Menu items described as "crispy", "brined", "pan-fried", "alfredo" or "gratin" may be higher in calories and sodium.
- On the side - Ask for your dressing on the side.
- Double your veggies - Order a double serving of vegetables with your entree.
- Order pizza with extra vegetables - Try spinach, peppers, tomatoes and onions instead of adding extra meat, feta cheese and olives.
- Say "hello" to H2O - Limit sugary drinks and alcoholic beverages. Drink water with meals and regularly throughout the day. It's a calorie and sugar free way to keep hydrated. Other choices when dining out may include: milk, sparkling water, a small glass of 100% fruit juice, and unsweetened tea or coffee.
- Hunt down the whole grains - Some restaurants offer whole grain options – ask for whole grain breads, buns, pizza crust and crackers.