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Do Calorie Counts On Menus Make A Difference?


Do Calorie Counts On Menus Make A Difference?

On average, Americans are eating out 4.5 times a week, yes a week. Instead of focusing on just how much money we’re spending, ($3,000+) we should be thinking about how many extra calories we’re eating every time we head to a restaurant.

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that 92% of popular menu choices exceeds the calorie count for a normal meal – yikes! There could be a solution, however, one that has been proven to work in Australia: displaying calories on menus. Not only does this stop us eating as much, but apparently, this has even had a positive impact on the retailers.

In a meta-analysis, to be published in the International Journal of Retailing, researchers from Australia have discovered the effectiveness of showing us how many calories that burger has.

Lead researcher, Natalina Zlatevska, says that while the calorie reduction isn’t much if you only eat out once a year, for those who out regularly it can make a difference of on average 27 calories per meal. Of the 186 studies analyzed, the impact was greater for women with a whopping 60 calorie reduction per meal and this increased to 83 calories for those who are overweight.



“With more and more food dollars spent on meals purchased outside the home, anything we can do to educate consumers and make them a bit more aware of their choices is a good start,” says Zlatevska.

It’s not just us that are affected. The research also found that displaying calorie information encouraged food retailers to reduce each menu item by 15 calories. “In the same way that corporate or financial disclosure changes behavior, here we see the disclosure effect changing the food environment,” she says.

Unfortunately, we might not be seeing this strategy in American restaurants anytime soon. Although displaying this information on menus is mandatory in most of Australia, it has proven to be a controversial move in the US.


– READ MORE: 5 Tips For Dining Out And Staying Trim


The law has had constant delays and push backs from the food industry. It was first mandated in the 2010 Affordable Care Act and was due to be implemented in May 2018, however, it already looks like this will be postponed or even watered-down.

This shouldn’t stop you from heading out as there are still plenty of ways to order healthy choices at restaurants. Just be cautious and remember to enjoy yourself.


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