Do restaurant menu calorie counts influence eating habits? According to a recent study, the fact that some restaurant chains have started posting the calories contained by their products has done little to influence the consumer’s food choices.
Starting with December 16th of this year, restaurant chains in the U.S. will be obligated to post calorie information on their menus in order to make their customers aware of how much of their daily intake requirements are met by the dish they want to order.
Some chain restaurant companies have posted their calorie information willingly on their menus in the last few years. But according to the research menu items available at these restaurants were already lower in calories than the items available at the competitor chains which did not post calorie information on their menus.
According to the study, an average food item at chains that voluntarily posted their calorie information had 373 calories, while the average food item in chains that did not reveal the information had 521 calories.
The researchers did not think that posting calorie counts would encourage restaurant chains to reduce the calories in their menu items, as the conclusion they reached was that companies were posting the information while being only motivated by the fact that they had mower calorie items than their competitors already.
Considering that these companies already have a better option than that of their competitors on their menus, they could have considered making the calorie information public as being a form of positive publicity.
The lead researcher of the study, Doctor Jason P. Block, who is an assistant professor for the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School, considers that companies have found this information worth publicizing most likely because of having lower calorie menus and not because of their motivation for researching lower calorie options in order to benefit their customers.
The researchers used data found on MenuStat to conduct the research. MenuStsat was put together by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in an attempt to gather nutritional information from restaurant chains in the U.S. since 2012.
However, there are some hints that companies may consider cutting down calories in their items once they are forced to post them on the menu. Based on previously enforced local laws concerning calorie information, another study found that, for example, the number of calories on the average menu item for 37 chain restaurants in King County, Washington, dropped from 818 to 777 after a county law forced chain restaurants to post calorie information on labels.
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