Making Informed Choices When Dining Out

Starting January 1st 2017, larger establishments that sell ready-to-eat and prepared food, including alcohol, must provide calorie information. This information can help you make informed choices when dining out or buying take-away meals.
Group Eating

Where can it be found?

  • Calorie information must appear in any restaurant, grocery store, convenience store, or movie theatre with 20 or more locations in Ontario.
  • Calorie information must appear on all menus (example: printed or electronic menus, drive-thru signs, buffet signs, and display tags).


Why menu labelling?

Meals purchased outside of the home are often higher in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium. They are also usually lower in vegetables, fruit, and fibre. Consumers often underestimate how many calories are in a restaurant meal. Providing calorie information can help consumers make informed choices for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

How many calories do I need?

Calories are a measure of how much energy you get from the food and drink you consume. The average adult requires about 2000-2400 calories per day. However, individual calorie needs vary based on age, gender, physical activity levels, genetics, body weight and composition. Talk to your healthcare provider to discuss your individual calorie needs.

In addition to posting calorie information, menus must list recommended daily calorie needs for adults. This will allow you to compare the amount of calories in a meal or drink with the amount of calories an average adult needs in a day. So if your approximate calorie needs are 2,000 calories each day, you may think twice about buying a single meal that contains 1,800 calories.

What about alcohol?

Did you know alcoholic beverages contain calories? This can include calories from both the alcohol itself, as well as any mixes that may be added to the alcohol. Calorie information for alcoholic beverages must be listed on a menu, label, or tag.

The calories in alcohol may vary as there are different serving sizes for the different types of alcohol. One standard drink contains about 100 calories.
One standard drink includes:

  • One bottle of 5% beer
  • One bottle of 5% cider or cooler
  • One 5 oz glass of 12% wine
  • 1.5 oz of hard liquor (40% alcohol content)

Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of heart disease and cancer. Follow Canada’s low risk drinking guidelines to reduce your health risk.

Making healthy food choices

Calorie information can help you make informed decisions when dining out. But remember, the key to eating well is to focus on quality. Some foods that are nutritious may be higher in calories and that is ok. For example:

  • Plain 2% milk has 130 calories per cup and is rich in calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Diet pop has 0 calories and is low in nutrients. The milk is a more nutritious choice than the diet pop.
  • A salad with grilled chicken, vegetables, and nuts may have 750 calories, while a cheeseburger may have 550 calories. The salad has more nutritional value than the cheeseburger.

Chicken Salad



Want more information?

Nutrition information such as fat, protein, carbohydrate, sugar, fibre, and sodium content will not be posted on menus.

If you want more information, just ask for it! Most large restaurant chains have additional nutrient information available online.

General information

The Healthy Menu Choices Act (Government of Ontario) sets the rules for food service premises to post calories on their menus. Additional information can be found here.


Last Updated: January 13, 2017