Thought for the Day: With all the concern in our nation about obesity, common sense and good intentions led to laws requiring posting the calorie counts for meals at fast food restaurants. Has the policy helped? What do you think?
True or False: Posting Calories on Fast Food Menus Leads to Healthier Food Choices
The answer is actually false. In multiple studies in New York, Philadelphia and Maryland little or no difference was found in the number of calories consumed when the nutritional charts were posted at fast food restaurants.
In a 2008 study by several professors at New York University and Yale in poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods in NYC where obesity and diabetes levels are high, researchers found that only about half the customers even noticed the calorie charts. Of those who read the charts, only 28 percent reported that the information influenced what they ordered. Although 90% of those who noticed the charts said they had made healthier choices, when the researchers checked their receipts (Researchers paid $2 per receipt and collected 1.100 receipts, 2 wks before & 4 weeks after, the calorie posting law went into effect), they found people actually ordered slightly more calories than average customers had before the labeling law was initiated.
In July of 2013, Today Health reported that researchers from Carnegie Mellon came to similar conclusions, "No matter how much calorie information is on the menu list, people still choose the food they like, not what's supposed to be healthier."
These results raise the question, if labeling does not help fight the rise in obesity in our society, what would work better? Could discounting salads and fruits help as an incentive to poorer populations who lean towards choosing 2 for $3 or $5 options regardless of how unhealthy the offering may be? Can educational programs make a difference? What other programs would you suggest?