NEW YORK (NBC) - We know counting calories can work when reading labels at the grocery store, but what about in restaurants?
Health experts say there are signs it is working for customers at New York City fast-food chains.
A study by New York City health officials found requiring restaurant and fast food chains to list calories on its menus is working to encourage healthier choices.
It showed 15 percent of customers used the calorie information and ordered items with an average of 100 fewer calories. It may not be huge gains, but its a start towards shaving off the pounds.
"It doesn't surprise me that people are looking at labeling as a wakeup call," said nutritionist Elisa Zied. "They are seeing how many calories are in typical foods they would order."
New York City was the first in the country to require calorie labeling in 2008. Other cities and states have followed.
Next year, federal law will require restaurant chains with 20 locations or more to list calories on menus.
Pressure from consumer groups and parents has also changed the way fast-food companies do business. Many have revamped menus to offer lower-calorie and healthier choices.
This week, McDonald's announced it would change its Happy Meals by cutting the French fry portion in half and adding apples to the menu.
Nutritionists say those options, along with counting calories, are just a few ways to give kids and adults tools to make better choices.
"It's not just about calories, it is about the entire nutritional package of the food you are using," Zied said.
That includes the amount of fat and sodium in foods, possible new labels that could show up on a menu near you.
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