The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

McDonalds Calorie Count Credit: Melanie Lei

Penn students getting their daily Starbucks fix may be surprised by the addition of a whole new set of numbers on the menu.

On Monday, a new Philadelphia law that requires restaurants with over 15 locations to post calorie content on their menus took effect.

Penn dining locations now posting calories include the Starbucks and Subway in 1920 Commons and the Einstein Bros. Bagels in Houston Hall.

Off-campus locations frequented by students that the law effects include Chipotle Mexican Grill, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and the Starbucks on Walnut and Chestnut streets.

Terri Brownlee, Bon Appetit Management Compay’s regional director of nutrition, ensures Penn’s compliance with this ordinance. She is “on the fence” regarding its effectiveness.

Brownlee said while increased awareness might help students make food decisions, the information can be used in the wrong context.

“If you’re someone who focuses on getting a balanced plate, counting calories is not that important,” she said.

Brownlee cited the example of students with eating disorders who refuse to eat “relatively healthy foods” when they discover that they have a high caloric content.

Whether this ordinance will change student food purchasing habits has yet to be seen.

“Honestly, I was reassured when I found out that the Double Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s was under 1,000 calories,” Engineering freshman Michael Lo wrote in an e-mail.

However, he emphasized that “the hazards of fast food have already been ingrained in [his] mind” and that these food postings would “not affect [his] food choices at all.”

However, Junxu Lye, a Wharton and Engineering sophomore from Singapore, said the postings reminded him of the differences between how calories are perceived in his home country and the U.S.

He noted that consumers in Singapore seem less concerned about calories than Americans, but they do purchase less. “McDonald’s at home are always crowded ... but it would be rare to see someone buy two burgers and fries for a meal, unlike here,” he said.

Andy Katz, a College senior who goes to chain restaurants two or three times a week, said, “The one place where my choice definitely changed was Subway ­— I love the meatball sub but its calorie count is literally twice that of anything else on the menu.”

Brownlee said in terms of other forms of on-campus dining, Bon Appetit is “very aware of student desires to have more nutrition information.” However, it is only able to provide general approximations on food served in dining halls because the chefs cook from scratch, not from standardized recipes.

The menu law has parallel versions in New York City and California, but the Philadelphia law has been the most stringent to date because in later phases it will require saturated and trans fats, sodium and carbohydrate information to be posted as well.

Information for menu boards posted in Penn retail dining locations was provided by each franchise, according to Brownlee.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.