The International Journal of Obesity published a really interesting study looking at the mandatory calorie reporting at restaurants and how it may affect your choice of food.
The study looked at 420 parents and teenagers who were going to fast food restaurants before and after New York made a law mandating calorie listings for restaurant foods. The study then compared these New Yorkers with a control group in a neighboring state who did not have such a calorie labeling law, to see if the New York law had an impact on parents’ and children’s’ choices of foods. They found that 57% of the New York teenagers said that they did notice the calorie information, but only 9% said that information influenced their food choices at all. In fact, the thing that influenced them the most was the taste of the food, not the calories.
This particular study focused on 4 fast food chains: McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s important to consider that detail because people who are eating at most fast food restaurants are probably less concerned about caloric intake then people who don’t eat at these fast food restaurants. So it is possible that if the study focused on non-fast food restaurants, the outcome may have been different.
We like the idea of calorie counts on menus, but we are not so supportive of legislation on this matter unless this clearly leads to improved outcomes. Fried foods and meats will almost always have more calories than salads, fruit and yogurt. You can get most any of these at most fast-food restaurants. The choice is yours (and ours).