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Informed Dining for Consumers

The BC Government has worked closely with the restaurant industry to develop the Informed Dining program. You can be confident when eating at participating restaurants that you will have access to nutrition information before you make your menu choice. All you have to do is stop guessing and start asking!

Why focus on calories and sodium?

FAST FACT Almost one quarter of all Canadian household food dollars are spent in restaurants.Eating out can be a special treat and a time for a little indulgence. However, if eating out is a regular part of your day you may not realize just how many calories and sodium are in the food you order.
When shopping in your local grocery store, you can look at the label to find nutrition information on packaged foods. However, when in a restaurant usually there is no way for you to know how many calories are in the pasta special or how much sodium is in the pepperoni pizza.

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.

DID YOU KNOW? A chicken caesar salad menu item can contain as much as 1100 calories and 1500 mg of sodium.We all need some sodium, but most of us eat about 3400 milligrams of sodium per day. This is more than double the amount of sodium we need. Over 75 per cent of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods, including those from restaurants and food service establishments. Eating too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Eating less sodium can help you and your family stay healthy and feel your best.

Get the facts about sodium.

"We support initiatives that make it easier for consumers to make healthy food choices. The Informed Dining program does that and we congratulate the restaurants that are participating."  Janice Macdonald, R.D., M.Ed. Director, Communications - Dietitians of Canada

How do you make sense of calories and sodium?

Calorie and sodium needs differ depending on a number of factors such as your age, gender and activity level. But the following chart can be used as a general guideline when making menu choices.

When shopping in your local grocery store, you can look at the label to find nutrition information on packaged foods. However, when in a restaurant usually there is no way for you to know how many calories are in the pasta special or how much sodium is in the pepperoni pizza.

You can find even more information on daily calorie and sodium requirements by visiting the Health Canada website.

Daily Calorie and Sodium Requirements:

  RecommendedNo 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?

DID YOU KNOW? One Pina Colada can have as much as 460 calories and a Caesar cocktail can have as much as 660 mg of sodium!Many people don't realize how many calories are in alcoholic beverages. Not only does alcohol itself contribute calories but the mixes that are added to make a cocktail can also be full of calories.

For example a double rum and cola can have 310 calories and a Daiquiri can have as much as 475 calories! As a general guideline, the higher the percentage of alcohol and the sweeter a drink is the more calories it contains.

Some cocktails are also very high in sodium, for example a salt rimmed Margarita or a Bloody Mary made with tomato juice.

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 BeveragesStandard 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

Beyond excess calories and sodium, alcohol consumption can lead to other health risks.  You can find out more information on the Here to Help website.

Healthy Tips for Eating Out

You can also use these healthy eating tips for eating out:

  • 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 and a double serving of vegetables with your entree.
  • Load your pizza (with veggies) - Order pizza with extra vegetables like spinach, peppers, tomatoes and onions and forgo extra meats, feta cheese and olives.
  • Say "hello" to H2O - Limit sugary drinks and alcoholic beverages, opting instead for regular or soda water, tea, milk or a small glass of 100 per cent juice.
  • Hunt down the whole grains - Some restaurants offer whole grain options – all you have to do is ask. Request whole grain breads, buns, pizza crust and crackers.

The information on the Healthy Eating pages of the Healthy Families BC website is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a physician or other qualified healthcare professional.


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