Can Restaurant Calorie Counters Really Help You Lose Weight?

It’s tough to deny it: when seeing just how many calories are behind that usual dish at your favorite restaurant, you falter a little. You might sigh and order it anyway, telling yourself you’ll just use the elliptical for an extra five minutes at the gym. But chances are, that little bit of faltering you may or may not have done is not enough to keep you from ordering the meal.

All across the nation, restaurant and fast food chains have been including the calorie count for each item on their menu, to help you rethink what’s being put in your body and help us lead a healthier lifestyle. With the soaring rate of obesity in America, it’s no wonder legislation passed the calorie-counting law as per President Obama.

But is it really working?

The problem is that calorie counting doesn’t curb an appetite. You can order a 500 calorie dinner and receive a piece of chicken and a few vegetables, and your stomach will be growling in an hour or two. Yes, it’s important to pay attention to the numbers next to the menu item, but smaller meals throughout the day work best. In an article on, Sian Porter of the British Dietetic Association recommends recording your meals in a journal. Since serving sizes have increased over time, evaluating portion control is important.  

The difference between calorie counting at restaurants and counting on your own? Making your own meals allows you to measure how many calories you actually need each day. When ordering at a restaurant, it becomes easier to stray away from that number. Websites such as offers a calculator based on weight and weekly physical activity to determine how many calories needed daily and gives other formulas to figure out where to cut back to lose weight.

Of course, it’s all about personal choice. While it’s a good idea to keep the calories in mind the next time you order a juicy burger with the works, treating yourself once in a while isn’t a crime. Just remember one word, like Porter said: portion.

By Tracy Diamond, Quinnipiac University

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