Diet & Nutrition Archive

Posting Calories-Not The Cure To Bad Food Decisions   

Listing the calorie content on menus may not be as helpful to  restaurant customers as had been expected. When chain restaurants started printing the amount of calories in each item on  their menus in 2008, the nation became hopeful that healthier eating would follow and eventually, obesity rates would be  reduced. Many restaurants voluntarily jumped on the calorie- listing trend as a way of declaring their support to the healthy  eating initiative, while other chain restaurants in New York were required by law to display calories. It seemed that with the  overwhelming enthusiasm associated with posting calorie information that consumers would make healthier food decisions. However, despite the open presentation of calories and focus on  raising consumer awareness, obesity continued to be a wide-  spreading epidemic.

A recent study looked at the impact of posting calories in fast food restaurants in hopes of finding that consumers made healthier, less caloric food choices. The study, published in British Medical Journal, was conducted over two years: before calories were listed on menus, in 2007, and after the regulation for calorie data was in place, in 2009. Unfortunately, displaying calories did not result in an overall shift toward healthier eating. Of the participants surveyed during popular eating hours, only one in six utilized the posted calorie information when deciding what to order. When consumers considered the calorie information on the menu, they purchased food items containing 106 fewer calories than those that did not use the calorie information. This shows that having knowledge of the amount of calories in menu items can influence healthy food choices.

Even though the total amount of calories in a purchased meal did not decreased with calorie display in all of the restaurants studied, some large fast food chains such as McDonald’s, Au Bon Pon and KFC exhibited reduced calorie purchases up to 14.4%. By looking at specific restaurant chains for any changes in the amount calories their consumer purchases when calories are posted, experts can begin to discover why some consumers factor this information into their decision-making process and why others do not--whether it be the physical display, the type environment, or the availability of healthy options for purchase. Insight into consumer behavior at restaurants will be key in determining if consumers need to be educated on healthy foods or in the extreme case, if they need to be taxed by the government into buying healthy foods. 

Source: British Medical Journal Online

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Posting Calories-Not The Cure To Bad Food Decisions

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