Summary: Higher-Calorie Menu Items Eliminated in Large Chain Restaurants

Why do we need to improve menu options in large chain restaurants?

  • On a typical day, about 1 in 3 kids and adults in the United States eat at fast food restaurants, including large chain restaurants.1
  • Restaurant food often contains more calories than food eaten at home.2,3
  • Evidence suggests that consuming food outside of the home is associated with increased risk for obesity.4-8

What does the evidence say?

EVERGREEN members Dr. Sara Bleich and doctoral student Alyssa Moran, along with collaborators Dr. Marian Jarlenski, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, and Dr. Julia Wolfson, at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, have released a publication in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that examines the average calories for menu items that have been removed in large chain restaurants. In order to conduct these analyses, the researchers used data from 66 of the 100 largest revenue generating chain restaurants in the U.S., provided through the MenuStat project (2012-2015). The researchers’ main goals were to compare mean calories among items that stayed on the menu in all years of the study to items dropped, and to compare mean calories among newly introduced items that stayed on the menu to newly introduced items that were dropped from the menu. They found that menu items that were dropped from the menu had 71 more calories than items on the menu in all years (p = 0.02). New items that were dropped from the menu had 52 more calories than new items that stayed on the menu (p=0.04).

These results suggest that higher-calorie items are being removed from the menus of large chain restaurants. Over time, this movement towards lower calorie options, which does not rely on individual behavior change, could improve public health outcomes by reducing calorie intake. Interested in learning more? Click here for a link to the full-text article. Click here to hear Dr. Bleich’s podcast discussing the new federal menu labeling policies that are meant to be implemented in 2018, as well as other public health proposals such as sugar-sweetened beverage taxes.


Bleich, S. N., Moran, A. J., Jarlenski, M. P., & Wolfson, J. A. (2018). Higher-Calorie Menu Items Eliminated in Large Chain Restaurants. Am J Prev Med, 54(2), 214-220. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2017.11.004.


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