Calories on menus
Learn about the calories you need and where you can find information about calories in your food and drinks.
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We need energy every day to fuel our basic body functions and physical activity. We eat and drink to get this energy, which is measured in calories.
Knowing how many calories are in our food and drinks is part of getting the right amount of energy we need every day.
The number of calories you need is based on your age, gender and level of activity.
On average, adults and youth (ages 13 and older) need 2,000 calories a day, and children (ages 4 to 12) need 1,500 calories a day.
It’s important to remember that your individual needs may vary.
Use Canada’s Food Guide
You can use Canada’s Food Guide to get an idea of the number of calories you personally need in a day.
For example, if you are:
- female, 31 to 50 years old and active, you may need 2,250 calories per day
- male, 31 to 50 years old and active, you may need 2,900 calories per day
Children are growing and have different nutritional needs. For example, a child who is:
- female, 6 to 7 years old, who is active may need 1,700 calories per day
- male, 6 to 7 years old, who is not active may need 1,400 calories per day
You’ll find examples to illustrate the different levels of activity and suggested calorie needs for people from 2 to 71 years old and over.
Making informed choices
Nutritional information, including calories, is already available on the labels of many items we buy at the grocery store.
Of course, we also buy food when we’re out and about. That’s why information about calories is now available on menus in restaurants and other food service businesses.
This is part of the Healthy Menu Choices Act. As of January 1, 2017, all food-service chains with 20 or more locations in Ontario must post the number of calories in the food and drink items they sell.
This information can help you and your family make informed choices and discuss healthy options when you’re getting takeout, stopping for a treat or eating out a restaurant.
Where you’ll see calories posted
You’ll see the number of calories posted at places such as:
- fast-food restaurants
- coffee shops
- grocery stores
- movie theatres
What menus tell you
The menu will provide the number of calories you get from each of the standard food or drink items that are sold. In the case of menus, you’ll find this information directly below, beside or above the name or price of each standard food item on the menu.
A standard food item refers to both food and drinks. It’s an item that is:
- sold in a standard or regular size
- served, processed and/or prepared in a regulated location
- e.g. fast-food or dine-in restaurant, grocery store
- meant to be eaten/drank right away, with no further preparation by the customer
- e.g. coffee shops, bakeries, fast-food and dine-in restaurants
Statements about daily calorie needs
As of January 1, 2017, businesses must also post one of the following statements on their menus:
- Adults and youth (ages 13 and older) need an average of 2,000 calories a day, and children (ages 4 to 12) need an average of 1,500 calories a day. However, individual needs vary.
- The average adult requires approximately 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day. However, individual calorie needs may vary.
As of January 1, 2018, businesses covered by the new rules must post the following statement:
Adults and youth (ages 13 and older) need an average of 2,000 calories a day, and children (ages 4 to 12) need an average of 1,500 calories a day. However, individual needs vary.
Healthy Menu Choices Act
Under the new law, we set out rules about how to display calorie information on menus. Those rules deal with things such as the exact size and placement of the text.
We also define the role of inspectors and how the rules are enforced.
Inspectors from local public health units will visit all businesses that must follow the law.
After that, public health units will respond to any complaints about a business not following the law. This could lead to education, a warning and then a fine if they continue not to follow the law.