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Restaurants that List Calories are Building Trust, Loyola Dietitian Says

Starbucks Joins McDonald’s and Panera Bread in Voluntarily Including Calories on Menu

MAYWOOD, Ill. – Starbucks announced it is voluntarily posting calorie counts on its menu boards and one Loyola dietitian is raising her coffee cup in salute.

“So often in Loyola’s medical weight loss clinic I witness patients’ reactions of disbelief and shock as we review together online the high caloric content of a food item they chose at a restaurant that they thought was healthy,” said Ashley Barrient, MEd, LPC, RD, LDN, who is a  clinical dietitian and bariatric specialist at Loyola University Medical Center.  “Starbucks and McDonald’s are saving consumers the research time and building a trusting, open relationship with consumers.  These efforts make customers happy, and happy customers keep coming back!"

A Starbucks 16-ounce grande caramel macchiato with 2 percent milk has 240 calories. Barrient said that each person has individual caloric needs for weight loss, and the nutrition information is the first essential step in deciding if this drink could fit into someone’s breakfast or afternoon pick-me-up.

“This coffee drink could be someone’s entire breakfast allotment of calories and it’s important to consider that although it’s a good source of dairy, there’s no fiber, scant protein and few nutrients compared with other food choices,” she said, adding that others may be able to fit this drink into their day while still maintaining a balanced diet and healthy weight. Barrient is part of a Loyola multidisciplinary team of psychologists, dietitians, physicians, surgeons and exercise physiologists that partner one-on-one with patients battling obesity.

“So often food establishments market or disguise an item as healthy and then, through taking the time to do the research, an individual will discover that the once-thought healthy food is actually much higher in calories from fat or sugar than numerous other options available on the menu,” she said.  “Starbucks’ and McDonald’s proactive efforts to educate consumers and openly communicate nutrition content of menu food items is a strength that sets these corporations apart from the rest."

Barrient recommended that patients journal what they eat and tally calorie counts to be more aware of overall caloric consumption, and also recommends free online tools such as MyFitnessPal.com that help track calories.

“Through openly providing nutrition information on the actual food items or visibly within their establishments, Starbucks and McDonald’s are building trust with their consumers and assisting those health-conscious customers in making more mindful food choices,” Barrient said. 

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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Stasia Thompson
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