In recent years, restaurants have received a lot of pressure to include their meals’ calorie contents on menus. But does this really change how much a customer will order? Does anyone even know what calorie content is measuring? Studies have shown that having calorie information actually leads people to order more food which, if anything, is affecting eating behavior in the wrong direction.
So how do we fix this? Researches from Texas Christian University, have tried to look into better tactics to change eating behavior when ordering food. One idea is putting contextual information on menus so that a person can easily see the impact of their food choices. In this case, researchers put information on how much exercise would be needed to burn the fat on menus to measure this. They tested this experimentally with 300 young adults from 18-30, randomly assigned to be in 1 of 3 conditions – a calorie-free menu, a menu that included calorie counts or a menu labeled with the minutes of walking needed to burn the calories in the food. Results showed that those participants with the exercise information on their menus ordered and consumed fewer calories than the other 2 conditions. Having calorie-free menus or menus with just calorie information did not affect food choices.
So maybe the key is not knowing how much we are eating but knowing how hard it would be to burn that off. Time for a menu change anyone?