Nutritionist calls on fast-food chains to display easy to interpret warning signs on high-calorie meals

A registered nutritionist is calling on all fast-food chains to display easy to interpret warning signs on high-calorie meals and provide nutritional information on all their items including combos.

Dr Sally Mackay says customers need help to understand exactly what they're ordering.

Mackay appeared on The AM Show on Monday and called on fast-food chains to help their customers see what the healthier and unhealthy options are on their menu. 

"We would like some menu labelling that people can interpret," Dr Mackay says. "There are some chains that do have the amount of calories beside their items but most people don't understand what that means. 

"So some sort of easy to interpret warnings, for example, some places in the US have salt shakers for the really high salt items. 

"We would also like to see every chain have nutrition information for all of its products. While some chains are really good at providing nutritional information, some have very little nutrition information and of course, they don't have it for the combos, they just have it for the individual items so people aren't going to add up all the items in their combo to see how many calories they're getting and how much salt."   

Dr Mackay was "really surprised" at the difference in the combos. She found that some were significantly more unhealthy compared to others.

"The worst one is a double burger with a dessert, fries and a sugary soft drink, which doesn't sound too bad but because everything was super-sized it had as many calories as you need for the whole day," she told the AM Show. "It had more salt than we recommend for a day and it had the equivalent of 16 teaspoons of sugar, so we certainly wouldn't be recommending that one."

Dr Mackay would not reveal where that combo was from because all the fast chains had similar unhealthy options.   

But the good news is combos aren't off the table, you just have to find meals that are smaller in salt and calories and Dr Mackay recommended skipping the dessert.

"There was one combo that had six different items you could eat plus a sugary drink, which is a lot in front of you but the good news is there are certainly better combos out there," Dr Mackay told the AM Show. "The smallest combo had a third of the calories I was talking about, a lot less sodium and a lot less sugar." 

She had a tip for consumers who are looking for healthier options at fast-food chains. 

"You can make better choices and there are better options available particularly if you look for words that indicate smaller rather than larger," she says. "You can probably think of some of those, mega, stackers that indicate large. 

"So going for a smaller burger, smaller fries, simple things like choosing the no-sugar drink rather than the sugary drink and skipping on the dessert means you can still have your combo but a lot less calories."