Showing the number of calories on restaurant food items can positively influence what people choose to eat, according to a recent study from Oklahoma State University, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. In the study, restaurant patrons ate from one of three menus over a two-week period: a standard menu without calorie information, a menu showing food items’ calorie counts, or a third menu with traffic lights representing calorie counts (green = foods under 400 calories, yellow = 401-800 calories, and red = 800+ calories). Diners ordering from the standard menu ate an average of 817 calories per meal, compared with 765 for the menu with calorie counts and 696 for the menu with traffic light symbols. Although the difference amounted to only 52 calories and 121 calories, respectively, the researchers reported that this reduction in calorie intake adds up over time—further proof that information is a powerful thing when it comes to making the best food choices.
—Sharon Palmer, R.D., Editor, EN