The Government should make it a requirement for pub, restaurant and cinema chains to spell out calorie content in food and drink, as part of its upcoming child obesity strategy, councils say.
Chains with more than 20 outlets need to clearly display calorie counts on menus and at counters to give consumers more informed choice, according to the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils.
Councils, which have responsibility for public health, say that making people more aware of how many calories they are eating and drinking will help beat the nation's obesity crisis.
Some retailers have already introduced calorie counts, but others need to step up, says the LGA.
The call follows a similar initiative in the US, where rules were brought in making it compulsory for chain restaurants, movie theatres and pizza parlours across the country to show calorie information on their menus.
A successful calorie count scheme has been running in New York since 2008 and has the backing of the city's restaurant industry.
Council leaders want the Government to take bold and brave decisions to tackle child obesity, as part of its strategy.
Latest figures show the need to take urgent action, with three and a half million children obese - one in five 10 and 11-year-olds and one in 10 four and five-year-olds.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the LGA's Community Wellbeing spokesperson, said:
"Pub, restaurant and cinema chains need to be displaying calorie counts so consumers and parents have a more informed choice and a better understanding of how healthy a particular snack, meal or drink is.
"Food and drink with high calorie content is clearly a factor behind obesity, and the subsequent health problems it can cause.
"We want the Government to require major retailers to make their customers fully aware of how many calories they are eating or drinking.
"Clear and prominent signs indicating the number of calories in a product should be mandatory.
"We need to take bold action in changing our environment if we are to beat obesity, and that includes when we're sitting at a table in a restaurant reading a menu or ordering at the counter."