Food delivery apps should add calorie data, advocates say

Many people have been eating more takeout due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Consumer Reports warns that calorie information is missing. What you need to look for so you can still make healthy choices.

As we’ve dealt with COVID-19, many of us have been eating more meals at home, either cooking or ordering takeout. Maybe you’re using one of the popular food delivery apps. They’re good at displaying menu options and prices, but Consumer Reports says one important thing may be missing: Calorie information.

Nutrition and calorie info can make choosing meals easier. The Food and Drug Administration requires restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts for stand items on the menu -- both in restaurants and online.

But that same nutritional information doesn’t always get transferred from the chain’s website to the menus on third-party delivery service sites like DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub.

“The FDA’s menu rule helps consumers to make more nutritious choices when eating out, but as online ordering and the use of third-party delivery apps exploded during the pandemic, suddenly that info isn’t as easy for consumers to find,” explained Catherine Roberts, a science journalist and associate health editor with Consumer Reports.

Uber and DoorDash both told Consumer Reports they give restaurants control over their menu and nutrition information on their respective apps. And Grubhub says it is actively working on innovative new ways to help consumers to make informed choices. (Full statements from the delivery services below.)

Consumer Reports nutritionist Amy Keating says placing a healthy take-out order is possible even when calorie counts aren’t available.

“Skip drinks like soda that add extra calories and no nutrition and seek out the items that feature vegetables, whole grains, or beans -- And because restaurant portions are often oversized, plan to share with a family member, or pack up half to eat on another day,” suggested Keating.

The FDA says it won’t be enforcing nutrition labeling laws for restaurants during the COVID-19 crisis, so it’s not likely this info will appear on apps anytime soon. You can get around that. Consumer Reports suggests you check the restaurant’s official website for nutrition information -- even if you’re using a delivery app to place your order.

DoorDash’s full statement to Consumer Reports:

“DoorDash is proud to connect consumers to local and national businesses in their communities. We work hard to enable customers to have access to the most up-to-date and accurate menu information, which is why we provide partners on our platform with the ability to enter and edit menu information directly, including nutritional information. We welcome the opportunity to engage with policymakers and stakeholders on this and other important issues impacting our industry.”

Grubhub’s full statement to Consumer Reports:

“Our goal is to meet consumers where they are in lifestyle choices, including supporting the increasing number of people who are focused on eating healthy. We are actively working on innovative new ways to help consumers to make informed choices.”

Uber’s full statement to Consumer Reports:

“We’ve built Uber Eats to be as merchant-friendly as possible, which means that restaurants have control over their menu listings on the app, including photos, item descriptions, pricing and adding any additional information—including calorie counts.”