That's Rich! Fines for Not Listing Calories

A whole-milk latte with whipped cream at Starbucks is 420 calories; a Big Mac with fries and a diet soda is 1,130 at McDonald's.

For three months, New York City chain restaurants have been required to post that information -- in characters as large as the ones used to post an item's price on menus or menu boards. Some have complied. Some have resisted.

Starting Saturday, owners could face fines ranging from $200 to $2,000 if city health inspectors find restaurants out of compliance. City officials expect compliance to go up dramatically within a few days.

It's all part of the city's prescriptive health policy -- one that has already banned cooking with trans fats and smoking in all but a few indoor spaces. The chain restaurants represent only 10 percent of the city's eateries. But they serve about one-third of the restaurant food. And that can have a whopping (pun intended) effect on health.

And as with all-you-can-eat buffets, drinks are included in the new regulations so, according to one published account, the chain restaurants with 15 or more locations will also have to post the calories in drinks such as a 6-ounce chocolate martini, 500 calories; a 6-ounce piƱa colada, 380 calories; or a 6-ounce mango-berry daiquiri, 1,590 calories.

"People really need to see it [calorie count] at the point of purchase when they make that decision what they want to order," said Cathy Nonas, director of physical activity and nutrition at the New York City Health Department.

"Customers will actually choose lower calories but also restaurants will begin to formulate new kinds of offerings," she said.

That 1,130-calorie McDonald's meal has more than 60 percent of the recommended daily calorie intake for an adult. Add that after-work, mango-berry daiquiri and you are well on the way to a sinfully caloric day.

According to New York City health officials, more than 50 percent of city residents are overweight. And the eateries covered by the new law -- T.G.I. Friday's, the Olive Garden, McDonald's, Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts among them -- serve somewhere between 100 million to 400 million meals a year in the city.

"We hope that the restaurant actually wants to comply, because it's good for their customers," Nonas said.

And other cities are watching the New York plan closely.

So the rich foods may always be with us but now, at least in New York, the buyer will be staring the facts in the eye before taking that first bite.